How to Be Like Mr Clutch


Was there ever any doubt? Anybody else, you’re saying they’ve got a chance to make a 16-footer on the 72nd hole of regulation (in the dark, no less) to win a tournament, but with Tiger, you know he’s going to make it. The man is the best player of all time, which not only makes him the best clutch putter in the game but the best clutch everything. He hit the perfect approach shot into No. 18 at Bay Hill on Sunday, leaving himself the perfect putt. It was certainly more manageable than the 24-footer he sunk for birdie on the same hole to win last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, although just as dramatic.
Tiger wasn’t at his best from tee to green this past week – he was 51st in driving accuracy and 50th in greens in regulation – but he was able to snatch victory away from Sean O’Hair on the strength of his putting game, which was remarkable. For the week, Woods averaged just 25.3 putts per round. He had a string of six consecutive one-putts in his first round and 11 one-putt greens on Sunday, many of the clutch variety. In addition to the tournament-clincher on 18, he sank a 25-footer for birdie on 15 and a 13 ½-footer to save par on 14 after burying his ball in the greenside bunker. And, had he not made a 25-foot bogey save on 18 the previous day, he would not have been playing in the final group with O’Hair on Sunday.
What makes Tiger such a clutch putter? No. 1, his routine is the same every time. It never varies. He takes a complete picture of the putt and visualizes what he sees before he starts his stroke. He’s not looking up for the sake of looking up. No. 2, he doesn’t hit until he’s ready to; if he’s not ready, he backs off. No. 3, he’s not afraid to hit the ball past the hole. Very rarely do you see Tiger leave a putt short. He hits his putts with enough speed to get them to the hole.
From a technique standpoint, he keeps his head virtually still through the stroke. It’s as if he’s seeing the putter go past him before he looks up. I call this “seeing the ground under the ball.” You do this, and you’ll strike your putts more solidly and keep them online.
Finally, he loves to practice putting. During most non-tournament weeks, Tiger is out there on the practice green twice a day, usually after a short game or driving session. Most golfers don’t practice putting enough and could take a cue from the game’s best putter: Practice!