Tiger Woods: 4 Lessons We Learned at the Accenture Match Play Championship

David Kindervater@TheDGKCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2012

Tiger Woods: 4 Lessons We Learned at the Accenture Match Play Championship

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    Tiger Woods is still trying to figure it out.

    His return to a regular schedule on the PGA Tour in 2012 has only included two stops thus far—at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

    And while we're witnessing improvement in his game off the tee, from the fairway and even around the greens, Tiger's play on the putting surface, for the most part, has been a far cry from the clutch performances we're used to seeing.

    I guess you could say he's so close, yet so far away from the dominant player he once was.

    During the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship this past week, Tiger squeaked past Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano in the opening round at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain. But he missed a number of relatively short putts down the stretch in making an early exit after the second round against Nick Watney.

    It made for a short work week for one of the greatest golfers of all time as he continues to rebound from two years of personal problems, swing changes and injuries.

    Here are four lessons we learned after watching Tiger Woods at the 2012 WGA-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Tiger Woods Still Has Putting Problems

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    Tiger Woods is not putting well.

    He didn't putt well in 2010. He didn't putt well in 2011. And he's not putting well this year.

    Tiger Woods is currently near the bottom of the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting.

    He's giving back a shot and a half to the rest of the field per round.

    Do the quick math. It isn't difficult to figure out he's not going to win many golf tournaments with that kind of disadvantage.

    And if his disastrous putting performance in the final round at Pebble Beach a few weeks ago wasn't enough proof, his play in the second round at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship confirmed there is a serious problem.

    Still, Tiger is not mystified by his poor performances. He feels he has the answers. And after a dismal display—immediately following a putting lesson from Steve Stricker, mind you—that saw him miss three putts inside of 10 feet on the back nine against Watney, Tiger said:

    "I'm taking it back shut. I need to make that toe move. And I need to feel the release of my stroke. And it's hard to release it when the blade is going under. It's shut. And hence I block it open."

    Wow. That might be a technically correct explanation, but hopefully Tiger is not thinking about all that during his putting stroke, because he will continue to struggle if he's got that much on his mind during any swing of a golf club.

    Tiger Woods was one of the greatest golfers to ever play the game because of his outstanding putting, especially when it mattered most. He used to be one of the best clutch putters of all time. He'll need to get back to that if he's ever going to return to the form—or something related to it—that made him so tough to beat.

Tiger Woods Might Want to Consider a New Putter

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    OK, as long as we're talking about Tiger's putting problems, it might be time for him to try a new putter.

    I realize Tiger has been using the same style of putter since—well, since forever.

    But it might be time for a change, if for no other reason than to break this funk he's been in on the greens and get his confidence headed in the right direction.

    At what point do you say enough is enough?

    I'm not going to say it's the putter's fault. It isn't.

    The Nike Method 001 that Tiger is currently using is a great piece of equipment. But there are other options. He might want to consider the 002, 003, 004 or 005 model Method putters. I think it would be worth a shot. Literally.

    And if he is feeling especially adventurous, Tiger could go the way of the Nike Method Core series of putters or even the bizarre-looking Method Core Drone or the brand new but equally bizarre looking Method Concept.

    Sometimes it seems Tiger could use his driver and register better putting stats than he is right now. OK, I'm kind of kidding, but maybe a new piece of equipment would trigger some improvement.

    I know it seems drastic and it probably won't happen, but—just saying.

Tiger Woods' Swing Continues to Improve

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    Tiger Woods' much-discussed, rebuilt golf swing is improving.

    We are seeing results from the seemingly endless amount of time it took to revamp his golf swing with current instructor Sean Foley.

    Still, Tiger is not going to hit every fairway and every green every time.

    His opening-round win over Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship was a good example.

    But in his second-round loss to Nick Watney, Tiger was in a zone down the stretch, and he acknowledged his outstanding shot-making afterward:

    "Yeah, I striped it down the end," Tiger said. "I didn't miss a single shot coming in, which is good. And that was fun to hit the ball that well. Unfortunately I just didn't make a putt when I needed it."

    The stats don't lie. He has hit 40 of 55 fairways and 52 of 72 greens in regulation so far this year.

    Those are quality numbers. But here we are back at a discussion about his putting problems.

Tiger Woods Isn't Far from Finding Success

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    There are still plenty of doubters as to whether or not Tiger Woods will ever return to the dominant form he is best known for.

    I might even be one of them.

    But that doesn't mean he won't win golf tournaments—and major championships.

    There might be too many good golfers for Tiger to "take over" the PGA Tour again.

    Remember, he spent 623 weeks as the top-ranked golfer in the world during his career—281 of those consecutively.

    Who's going to accomplish that ever again? Nobody.

    But if he can regain some confidence with the shortest club in his bag, there is no question he will be a force to be reckoned with in the not-too-distant future.

    There will be growing pains. And he'll take his lumps along the way. We saw it at Abu Dhabi in January. We saw it at Pebble Beach. And we saw it at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship this past week.

    But Tiger Woods isn't far from finding success. He just needs to put the pieces of his game together.