My Dear Mr./Ms. R.T.:
Dr. Putt has received many comments about Mr. Woods recently, no doubt in response to his 15 stroke U.S. Open win. Many of them were like yours. Others asked about his impact on golf in general and putting in particular. If you will indulge Dr. Putt for a moment, he would like to comment on all of these matters.
Let us turn first to his U.S. Open victory. Let Dr. Putt make a very important point on this rather remarkable exhibition of prowess. The victory had little to do with putting. Mr. Woods could have putted as did most of the rest of the field and still won by several strokes. His nearly perfect putting inflated a victory margin of 3 to 5 to 15. Had he missed all of those long putts he made, he still would have won by a comfortable margin. If one hits fairways and approach shots close to the pin, average putting can still win a tournament--especially the U.S. Open. (Did Dr. Putt hear someone say "duh?")
Second, Tiger's putting reinforces the idea that a one piece stroke without any visible forward press--Tiger used such a forward press for a while following the 1997 master's victory, as Dr. Putt noted in his last column devoted to our young prodigy--is the optimal way to approach the challenge of putting.
Third, one should take note of Mr. Wood's visible putting routine. He looked at the putt from all sides, taking careful note of the area around the hole where the ball will be moving slowest and hence breaking the most. Then, after carefully placing the ball, he went through the rest of his usual routine. (Dr. Putt was unable to ascertain whether he was using some mark on the ball to help with aim or alignment. One may rest assured that this will be revealed to all in due course.) His entire putting routine probably deserves a column all of its own at some later date, if readers are interested. Those of us who are mortals might look more carefully around the hole, but we should be careful lest we look too long. Play is already far too slow. However, one can learn much around the hole by watching other player's putts and chips that roll by the hole.
Fourth, and finally, it seems patently clear to Dr. Putt that Mr. Tiger Woods has raised the bar for all of us, but expecially for those who attempt to compete with him. He has shown that a level of performance is possible that others would not even dare to think of let alone feel they could achieve. As one dear friend of Dr. Putt observed, Tiger is like the first person to break the four minute mile. Surely some will follow who will approach the game with the fearless expectations that Tiger has already exhibited. Those players may not arrive for several more years. But they will arrive. So we all owe him a debt of gratitude for the better golf we surely will see in the future.
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