Dr. Putt will leave most of the superlatives to others and simply state for the record that this win caps what is arguably the greatest accomplishment in the history of golf. Despite that, we mere mortals can learn something important to apply to our games. Mr. Woods played a brilliant round, and he certainly achieved the professional excellence that he has set for his own goal, a level of excellence rarely seen. Yet he made one notable mistake in his putting, a mistake that most average golfers make. The error shows that even the best of the best can yet improve. And the mistake was made before he ever struck the ball.
After just rolling a 25 foot eagle putt by the hole on number 15 in the final round on Sunday, Mr. Woods had a little two and a half footer coming back. It was one of those putts that was just outside tap-in range. He studied the putt as he should have and then went into his putting routine. (See the letter on Tiger's putting routine.) Right at the end of the routine he took some shortcuts -- he failed to take the the usual complete looks he gives the hole, once after assuming his stance and finally on the last look at the hole after settling his feet, just before starting his backswing. Rather than take a full look, he gave a quick glance, barely moving his head. The routine was something between his tap-in routine and his full routine. This suggests that he was not sure whether this was a tap-in or a putt meriting the full routine. He seemed in a bit of a hurry to get the stroke completed -- just as many of us do on putts of this length. The moment and the import of putt that would have put his nearest challenger two strokes behind with three holes to play merited a full routine with no shortcuts. Mr. Woods was indecisive, and it possibly cost him the stroke. But even if he would have missed with the full routine, he showed less than professional excellence on that shot.
Perhaps Dr. Putt is nitpicking, but it is the kind of nitpicking that adds a stroke here and there in a round of golf. That Mr. Woods has room for improvement should give his would-be competitors even more pause. Nevertheless, the lesson for us is clear. Make a decision as to the routine that you will follow and stick to it. Do not vary the procedure or take shortcuts, even if you are in a hurry to complete the hole and move on to the next hole. Dr. Putt doubts that Mr. Woods will make this particular mistake again.
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