It was another exciting week for golf, starting with our own Illinois' Mike Small winning his third PGA Professional National Championship, the ladies had an exciting four-person playoff and Justin Rose wins his second tournament (and probably should have been third) in the last six weeks. But many in the golf world will want to talk about Tiger Woods, was his tie for 46th indicative of the true state of his game? Will he be ready for St. Andrews in a couple of weeks?
Well according to Mr. Woods, the answer is a definite "Yes." He says his ball striking is solid and that he's driving the ball better than ever. If that's really the case, then he still has to be a favorite to hoist the Claret Jug following The Open Championship. That is, if he can get his putter straightened out. There will be pages of analysis regarding his 120 putts he took at Aronimak and the AT&T National.
I'm not actually as interested in getting Tiger out of his putting slump as I am getting you out of yours. Because let's face it, putting is the most critical aspect of the game and if you can't putt, you can't win. And we've all been through putting slumps when it feels like nothing will go in the hole. If you find yourself struggling on the greens, I suggest a quick analysis and some serious practice.
Remember, there are two elements to every putt and you need to get them both right for a putt to drop. You have to hit it at the correct speed and you have to hit it on the correct line. To work on hitting it on the correct line: Be sure your posture is correct. Check your eyes, are they too far inside? Where is your weight, is it leaning back or to the right or anything other than centered over the balls of your feet? You'll be amazed at how the correct set up will help you get your ball rolling on the intended line of your putt.
To work on speed: Other than lots of practice to get a better feel for the greens, you need to make consistent contact with the putterface to control your speed when you putt. I use facetape on my students' puttersto see where the ball is making contact (is it too close to the heel, the toe, too high?) Again, a good center-faced stroke with a proper set up is going to make a world of difference in your putting, I promise.
Going back to Tiger, I'm sure Tiger will go back to his normal putting practice, where he places two tees in the ground (just wider than the blade of his putter) and then often uses his right hand only to be sure to release the putter blade. This is a great drill, for posture and speed - and I'm confident you won't see too many more 120 putt weeks out of the world's no. 1 player. And when you find yourself struggling on the greens, think about these two items. Is my set up ok? Am I hitting the ball in a solid and consistent place on my putter?
One final note. It is possible to read the lines well, hit the right speed and sometimes, the putts just don't drop. Golf can be very fickle. If you hit the ball where you want, at a speed that seems appropriate - don't panic and change things that you are comfortable with. Just have faith that they'll drop the next green, the next round, the next week. Hoping you start making them all.
Kevin Weeks has been a PGA member since 1997, is a three-time recipient of the Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year award and is one of the most recognized teachers on the regional and national level. He is ranked No. 3 on the 2009 Golf Digest's Best Teachers In Your State list. He works extensively with competitive junior golfers --- 63 of his students have gone on to play collegiate golf. Weeks also works with more than 50 professional tour players, including Mark Wilson, winner of the 2009 PGA Mayakoba Golf Classic, and Michael Bradley, winner of the 2009 PGA Puerto Rico Open. Weeks writes instruction articles for Golf Digest, PGA .com and several regional publications.