Every week, across every golf practice range in the country, you see blokes lined up on the mod-grass mats doing exactly the same thing: teeing the ball up high and trying to whack their drives over the far perimeter fencing. And if they’re not doing that, they’re attempting to smash their four-irons as far as they can without herniating a disc.
The emphasis is all on power, length, strength and hang-time. But — and here’s a bit of advice I’ll pass on gratis, free and for nix — it’s all macho nonsense.
If any of those golfers were serious about slashing shots from their weekly round, and reducing their handicap, they’d put away the long clubs, pull out the shortest one and head for the well-manicured section of grass known as the practice putting green.
Eight days ago, Tiger Woods won the Bay Hill Classic in Florida for the sixth time. And the world No.1 didn’t achieve that result through brute strength or because he happened to hit his drives 10 metres past his rivals.
He won it because his putting was far superior to anyone else’s in the field. As simple as that.
Midway through the final round, as he was busy overhauling Sean O’Hair’s overnight lead, an extraordinary stat was flashed up in the corner of the screen. Woods had been faced with 54 putts of five feet or less during the tournament. How many do you reckon he holed? Go on, have a guess. And the question is particularly relevant for those bozos who continue to waste their time in practice, loosening their belts a notch as they try to blast balls into the stratosphere.
OK, I’ll tell you the answer. Woods holed all of those 54 putts. Every single one. Try doing that at your nearest practice putting green and see how difficult it is.
Woods’ success inside 10 feet — or 3.05 metres — was even more impressive. This is the range where most of us mid-handicap hacks might be happy to hole one in every two putts, maybe two in three on a really good day.
Woods holed 63 of 66 putts from inside that distance at Bay Hill. His success rate of 95.5 percent blew away the field average of 86.7 percent. In doing so, he gained roughly 6.6 shots on the field just from those short-to-mid-range putts.
Tiger will headline the field at Augusta National this week for the 73rd running of the US Masters, where the greens are the fastest and slopiest anywhere on the US Tour.
In his 13 full seasons as a pro, only once has Woods gone into the Masters without a victory under his belt — and that was 11 years ago. In that time, he has won the championship four times, finished second twice, third once and in the top 10 nine times.
His recent form — bung knee or not — has been astonishing, even by his standards, winning 18 of his past 31 PGA Tour starts (58 percent) dating back to the 2006 British Open.
And, most tellingly of all, Woods is the best clutch putter in the game, and perhaps the best of all time. Around Augusta, that talent takes on a special significance.
In light of all that, who’d be betting against him?
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