Tiger Woods: A Single Club Will Determine Whether or Not He Gets To 18

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2010

KOHLER, WI - AUGUST 14:  Tiger Woods lines up a putt on the third green during the third round of the 92nd PGA Championship on the Straits Course at Whistling Straits on August 14, 2010 in Kohler, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Forget about the image repair campaign Tiger Woods has launched as a way of getting out ahead of the one-year fire hydrant anniversary that sparked a series of events that ultimately led to the unraveling of both his marriage and golf game.  

Forget about Sean Foley.

Forget about Woods’ golf swing altogether.

Forget about everything on and off the golf course except for a single club in Woods’ bag—the putter.

If Woods is going to become the dominant player he once was and surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championship victories it will all come down to the shortest, least interesting club in his bag…that trusty old Scotty Cameron…or Nike Method…or Nike Mallet putter.

Throughout the history of golf, when great players begin to lose their ability to win major championships, more often than not it comes down to the flat stick.

If Ben Hogan hadn’t lost his putting stroke he would have probably continued winning majors into his 50s—he was that good of a ball striker.

If Harry Vardon hadn’t lost his putting stroke, which was largely due to lasting physical effects caused by his bout with tuberculosis, he would have probably won ten Open Championships and all three U.S. Opens he attended.

Sam Snead tried everything under the sun to regain his putting stroke after it initially escaped his grasp, but to no avail.  Had Snead not lost his putting stroke he would have won at least two U.S. Opens and might have reached the 100 mark in PGA Tour victories.

If Tom Watson had been able to sink a few three to four footers late in his career he would have undoubtedly won several more major championships.

In recent years, if Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh hadn’t lost their silky smooth putting strokes, they would have all won more major championships.

Sergio Garcia would have won multiple majors by now if he hadn’t somehow lost his putting stroke in his early 20s.

Very few golfers completely avoid the demons of the flat stick.  Nicklaus and Gary Player are just about the only two that immediately come to mind.

No one can predict when a golfer may lose his ability to sink those must-make five-footers with a major championship on the line.

But what is almost a certainty is that every golfer will eventually lose their touch on and around the greens. 

Woods is clearly not the same player he used to be around the greens.

In 2009 we saw him lose the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship as a result of his balky putter.

This year we saw him duff chip shots and miss four-footers like he was a ten handicapper.

One never likes to bring up the “Y” word.  But, Woods was coming dangerously close to a case of the yips on shorter putts during the later stages of the 2010 season.

Most great players can create and recreate their swings over and over again during the course of their careers.

Putting, on the other hand, is a much different animal.

VERY few players that lose their touch on the greens ever manage to get it back.  

Hogan couldn’t do it.

Vardon couldn’t do it.

Snead couldn’t do it

Palmer couldn’t do it.

And Watson couldn’t do it.

Tiger is quickly approaching the point of a lost putting stroke. . . if he has not already crossed that dreaded line.

Can Woods regain his old reliable putting stroke?

Possibly.

But forget about the divorce, the image, the golf swing and the new swing coach. None of that will determine whether or not Woods is able to dominate the game again and surpass Nicklaus’ record.

Woods’ downfall will more than likely be caused by that same pesky little menace that has caused the downfall of virtually every other great golfer in history—a lost putting stroke.

Now, you may be saying “no way, Tiger is too good to lose his putting stroke like those other guys.”

Well, that’s true of everyone…until they eventually lose their stroke.

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