Just one big victory by a talented student can make the career of a teacher. That was certainly the case last week at the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral. Tiger Woods took only 100 putts en route to a two-shot victory. It was a career-low for Tiger in a 72-hole event.
In this case the "teacher" of record was none other than tournament runner-up Steve Stricker. His early-week advice to Tiger on the Doral putting green certainly helped Woods win the event, and whether Stricker wanted the credit or not, he got it. I'm sure his phone is ringing right now with someone else who would love some magic dust to be sprinkled on him as well.
Obviously, he's playing a limited schedule this year and has quite a few dollars socked away for a rainy day, so I doubt that Stricker is looking to become the Tour's next Stan Utley. But in the upside-down world of golf instruction, you can be a hero or a goat in five minutes -- or one tournament.
The lesson consisted of a slight weakening of Tiger's left-hand grip and getting his hands a bit more forward at address.
Why could this help so much so soon?
Tiger uses a lot of face rotation in his stroke, both on the takeaway and the follow-through. When the grip is too strong, it is far too easy to over-rotate the face and miss putts to the left. Just think about some of the golfers who have used strong grips -- LeeTrevino, Paul Azinger, David Duval. They all hit fades because it is easier to hold the face off with a strong grip. A full-swing face-rotator supreme? Try Corey Pavin. He had the weakest grip on Tour for a long time.
Having the hands too far back on the putting stroke can have an even more detrimental effect for Woods. That would add loft and make it way too easy to close the face too soon, which would cause the ball to roll out differently than he is used to.
My dime-store analysis is that with his grip strong and his hands back, it was difficult for Tiger to close the face on his follow-through. Tiger normally closes the face a lot with his putter when he's putting well. Now that Dr. Stricker has him back to where he needs to be at address, the putts are dropping again for Tiger.
(Photos: Alan Diaz / AP)