As Dr. Putt has promised, we will take a close look at Tiger Woods' putting routine. While the details are interesting, the most important point is that he has a very strict routine that he follows each time he putts, excepting tap-ins. Whatever the routine, the wise player should have similar elements to those in Mr. Woods' routine -- and the wise player will maintain that routine without variation.
As Dr. Putt has noted in the letter on "marking the ball," Mr. Woods inscribes a short straight line on the ball to aim along the intended line of the putt. When he replaces his ball in front of the marker, he initially uses this line for a first guess at aim. He leaves the marker in place at this point. That is the first step.
Step Two. He walks in a clockwise direction to the hole carefully examining key points where there may be break and changes in grass. He crouches behind the hole looking back at the ball. The walk helps him get a feel for distance and changes in elevation. This walk takes about 20 to 30 seconds, depending on the length and complexity of the putt. On short putts of under 4 feet with no break he may skip this step.
Step Three. After returning to the ball, he carefully adjusts its position so that the short line inscribed on the ball is aimed along the path he has chosen and removes the coin marker, placing it in his right pocket as he steps away. This takes about 5-10 seconds.
Step Four. He crouches about two to three yards behind the ball, places his hands on either side of the bill on his cap to shut out all visual distractions and glare, and makes a final check on the line, probably visualizing the path of the ball into the hole. This takes about 10 seconds.
Step Five. He assumes his stance beside the ball parallel to the intended line setting the blade of the putter beside the ball with his right hand. He places his feet in alignment with the blade and often shakes the left hand a few times to free it from tension before assuming the grip. He is generally looking at the hole while he does this. While looking at the ball, he takes one practice swing, and without stopping, he takes a second swing. On the follow-through he looks up at the hole, probably imagining the ball falling into the hole. This gives him feel for the distance and promotes a sense of a freely swinging pendulum. This takes about 20 seconds from the time he left the crouching position behind the ball.
Step Six. Next Mr. Woods steps up the the ball, left foot first, then places the putter head behind the ball. He rotates his head to look at the hole -- he is very target oriented. Then he rotates his head back. He shifts his feet slightly to settle into his stance. This is done by shifting his weight to the right foot (lifting his left foot slightly) and then shifting weight to the left foot (lifting his right foot). He takes one more look at the hole, again carefully rotating his head. After he rotates back to the ball, he quickly focuses on the ball and begins his backswing. The time between looking back and the backswing is less than a second. The only variation here over the last couple of years that Dr. Putt has noticed is that Mr. Woods sometimes triggers the backswing with a little forward press. Dr. Putt has observed that when Mr. Woods is putting well, the press is practically nonexistent. Dr. Putt saw little of the press in Mr. Woods' dramatic streak in 2000. This process, from stepping up to the ball until striking it, takes about 10 seconds, usually slightly under.
The total time for Mr. Woods' whole routine is a little over a minute. On complicated long putts he can take a minute and a half or so. While that time may be acceptable for the professional tour, it is far too long for recreational players or even serious amatuers. So while you may want to emulate his routine, you should take a few shortcuts that could save some time. But whatever you do, your routine should have include three elements. One, the routine should allow you to see the slope and break of the green so that you can imagine the path the ball will take. Mr. Woods' walk accomplishes this task, as well as observations he makes while walking to the green and while watching others putt.
Second, you should aim the ball and make your alignment consistent with that aim. Mr. Woods does this with the mark he inscribes on his ball, with setting the ball and then squaring the blade to that mark, and by setting the toes of his feet to a parallel line.
Third, your routine should help give you a feel for distance. Mr. Woods does this with his walk and with the two rehearsal swings. If you have all these elements, along with sound swing mechanics, you will certainly be a better putter, even if you fall short of Mr. Woods.
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