My Shot Take it from somebody who knows: Even the greatest putters occasionally lose their touch

February 19, 2001

I've had to laugh, listening to all the talk about Tiger Woods's
so-called slump and putting problems. Sure, Tiger's a little off
on the greens, and because putting is 40% of golf, he's not
dominating the Tour as he did last year. Still, the fact
remains, Tiger has a perfect putting stroke. With that, and his
indomitable will, he's always going to be a great putter and a
big winner.

If I were to teach somebody to putt, I'd tell him to start by
studying Tiger's stroke. His arms and shoulders move back and
forward together, and he has no extra moving body parts. His
stroke is compact. His left wrist stays firm and his clubhead
goes straight back and through. Tiger's attitude is equally
awesome. He's aggressive, a lot like Tom Watson was in his
heyday. Tiger makes sure he gets the ball to the hole, and he is
especially firm on putts inside five feet. That's a great way to
putt, but it makes Tiger prone to lip-outs because his ball is
cruising so fast when it hits the cup.

When I lose my touch, I go back to my favorite drills. In one, I
hit straight six- to eight-footers with a chalk line between me
and the hole. The line forces me to line up my body correctly,
square the putter face and bring the clubhead straight back and
through. On 10-footers, I also put three coins on the green six
inches apart--one under the ball, one in front and one
behind--and try to graze the middle coin. Keeping the putter
inside the coins keeps my stroke compact. The best way to
practice is to play competitive games with friends. One of my
favorites is Sinks, in which you play to a predetermined number
of points and only one-putts earn a point. Another is 7 Up. You
get two points for a sink, one for the closest to the hole and
minus two for three-putts. The first player to seven wins.

You can never master putting, but Tiger's stroke is so solid that
he has nothing to worry about. He's going to snap out of his
so-called slump with at least one victory before the Masters, and
then watch out at Augusta.

Pooley becomes eligible for the Senior tour on Aug. 27.

COLOR PHOTO: TODD BIGELOW/AURORA

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)