Tiger Woods’ Chevron World Challenge is through the second round and surely you’ve heard by now that the host has a three-shot lead after hitting a slew of stunning shots and not missing but one. He’s at 8-under and Matt Kuchar and K.J. Choi are at 5-under. Tiger and Kuchar will be paired together on Saturday; they both shot 5-under on the day.
The wind was swirling again at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, but nowhere near as bad as Thursday. The one shot you’d think was Tiger’s bad shot wasn’t. He hit it in the water that fronted the significantly downhill, par-3 15th and went on to make a double bogey (he hit a nice little wedge from the drop circle and just missed the putt to save the bogey).
But the thing about it was that it looked bad. He’d been cruising along until he got there and then hit it in the water of all places. Sure the pin was short left, but how could he make such a mistake with a 6-iron? He explains:
…I hit a sweet shot in there. Unfortunately I caught the wrong gust at the right time. I was hitting it about three steps right of the flag, and it landed right on my target. There was nothing I could do. I hit a good shot. Just like I was telling Joey [his caddie] going down there to the drop zone, I hit a perfect shot, just the way it goes. Okay, now let’s try and make 4. Ironically enough today I flushed an 8‑iron that hits – I hit it hard, and I flush it, and I hit it right there and it hits in the bank. Yesterday I take something off an 8‑iron, I almost hit it in the back bushes. A little bit of wind out there (laughing).
So it was everybody else who was hitting 6-irons. He was hitting it so good, so flush, he only needed an 8…and then the wind got him. He didn’t miss by much either. Frank Nobilo said it was a yard short.
He also talked about how this newfound distance came about and how it can sometimes be a problem too:
Yeah, my mechanics were such that I couldn’t put any speed into it. I kept slowing down to get the club in the right position [at impact]. Now I can go again. I can be aggressive. It was frustrating because all the strength training that I was doing, how in the hell am I hitting it shorter? I should be hitting it further. But now I’ve got the club in the right position, supplement that with my weight training, all of a sudden the ball is flying, and that’s – it’s good and bad. You know, Christ, I hit a wedge on 17 today. That’s 150 to the front, I fly it over the green. I didn’t hit it hard. Sometimes it’s good and bad, I’ve just got to get used to it.
Nice problem to have. To be clear, most of the other players were hitting 9-irons into that green Friday. Tiger was hitting one club less and not only that, hitting it over the green! After he gets his transformed yardages down, he’s going to have to add a gap wedge between his pitching wedge and his sand wedge. Which will be a tough choice for him because he retains all his long irons so that he can take advantage of his length off the tee to hit par-5s in two.
One of the other very interesting pieces of information that came out of his post-round interview had to do with his putting. One of the commentators, probably Nobilo, noticed that he wasn’t using a standard putting grip, he was gripping it like he would grip any other club:
I was missing putts, and my shoulders were slightly open, so I’m trying to do anything I can to basically get my shoulders square. I like to putt with my right hand, just hit it with my right hand, release that toe as much as I possibly can. I like that.
So I like – as I say, I like to feel it moving and have some hit in my stroke. It was frustrating because when my shoulders get over like I did over on 5, it’s either a block like I did down the hill and then the next hole miss a short one because if I let it go it’s going left. As soon as I get my shoulders square then I can start covering the ball and getting the thing rolling tight, so that’s what I did today.
Okay, this is good. The first thing that came out of this is that the two best putters on the Tour (now that Tiger is back) putt with different hands; Tiger, right-handed, and Stricker, left-handed.
I can’t speak for Stricker, but I am an excellent putter and I putt left-handed too. And one of the best Monday-qualifier putters I knew out there putted left-handed as well. The reason I do is because I want a stroke that flows through the ball. I don’t want any hit in there that could one day escalate to the yips. If you are flowing through the ball, you don’t have to time a hit with the right hand.
Tiger is currently quite interested in releasing the putter, allowing the toe to follow the ever-so-subtle arc of his stroke rather than trying to hold it square. I find that, same in the full swing, if I just allow a relaxed left arm to flow through the ball, the putter naturally releases. He gets the same effect by feeling that he’s “covering” the ball. I achieve that same “covering” feel by not letting the putter catch my hands, by not letting my left wrist “cup” through the stroke.
As with anything in golf, it doesn’t much matter how you do it as long as you can get the ball in the hole.
For more lessons in the arcane world of swing theory and putting strokes, the broadcast is on NBC from 3:00 – 6:00 PM (ET). Or you can tune in here later to see what I may have seen.