Posted on: February 29, 2012 10:55 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 11:04 am

Some might call it swing oil, but not Nicklaus

By Steve Elling

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- It started off as a spontaneous treatise to a question indirectly relating to the putting issues of Tiger Woods, but the response took an interesting detour into an area that had not much been explored.

Eighteen-time major champion Jack Nicklaus never experienced debilitating putting slumps over his legendary career, and he's developed an interesting theory as to why it afflicted plenty of other legends, from Ben Hogan to Sam Snead to Arnold Palmer, but never seemed to bother him.

Yet the perceived root cause is, shall we say, a sensitive area.

Couching his words carefully, Nicklaus said Tuesday at the Honda Classic that he believes his putting stroke has remained steady over the years because he didn’t drink during tournament weeks, while other players from the old-guard era used to repeatedly hoist a cold one after rounds.

Or based on the stories circulating from back in that era, more than one, in some instances.

"I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, please, because I am not condemning what happened, but in those days, most of those guys were club pros in the old days, the Hogans and Sneads and so forth," Nicklaus said. "Their life was playing golf maybe 20 weeks a year and the usual thing was to come in after a round, sit down, have a drink and socialize.

"I have always felt that drinking does not do well with nerves. The guys today don’t do that. I don’t think you see that and I never did that. Did I have a drink, sure, I had a drink here and there. But never while I was playing in tournaments. I always felt it was terrible for your nerves and terrible for your touch.

"I don’t think the guys did it because they were nervous, it was just their way of life, a social way of life. Golf was a social sport. Guys today take the game more as athletes, in a different way. I took it pretty much that way.

"I never lost [my stroke], never. Even today, I am just as quiet over a putt as I was when I was playing. I am not saying these guys were [heavy] drinkers. I am just saying it was part of their life, part of their culture. It's not part of the culture now.

"You don’t really hear about the yips anymore, do you? The only guy I remember who had the yips, who I know was not a drinker, was Langer. And he has overcome them."

Interesting theory, and one never before espoused, as far as we know. Nicklaus seemed to sense that some would take it the wrong way.

"Probably a theory I probably shouldn't have said here," he said.

And clearly, none of it applicable to the recent putting plight of Woods, who isn't much of a drinker, socially or otherwise.

Posted on: July 21, 2010 3:15 pm

Wiil Woods again find green pastures?

Sometimes, statistics are quantitative hallucinations that provide little more than a bleary, 12-beer look at the reality of a particular situation.

In baseball, a pitcher's ERA often skies when a reliever allows inherited runners to score. In basketball, shooting percentage is based solely on baskets scored, not the distance from the hoop when the shot was taken. In football, they even use subjective measures for things like pancake blocks, quarterback hurries and the like.

Yet as it relates to the increasingly alarming state of Tiger Woods' putting, it's hard to believe that all of the numbers are as off-base as his stroke at the moment.

Amid a firestorm of conversation last week at the British Open, Woods for the first time benched the putter he used to win 13 of 14 majors and $100 million in prize money worldwide since he first put it in the bag in mid-1999.  Then he used 99 putts over the first three rounds at St. Andrews and switched back to the original stick.

At the moment, at 0-for-7 this year, Woods is in the midst of his longest drought to open a PGA Tour season since 1998, when he won his ninth start. It isn't hard to find an underlying reason: Compared to his peers, his statistical measures on the putting greens are downright mediocre. Judged versus the yardstick of his own past play, the dropoff is downright eyebrow-raising and the main reason why some analysts are openly speculating that he's never going to catch Jack Nicklaus' major-championship total of 18.

After completing the British Open, Woods has fallen to 91st in putting average (1.78 strokes per hole) and 140th in average putts per round (29.56). Since it's our job to plumb where and why it's all gone wrong, here is a detailed and highly revealing examination of his putting successes and failures from various distances.

Amazingly, only from 3-5 feet does he even closely resemble his former self and the dropoff in the next measuring category, 5-10 feet, is particularly interesting given the number of par putts players face from that distance at major championships. Once the greatest gotta-have-it putter in the game, Woods isn't even keeping up with most journeymen players. 

So, television couch potatoes, your eyes do not deceive. The PGA Tour's Shotlink computer reveals that from almost any distance except inside five feet, Woods has been shockingly inept. Note: The number in the second column represents Woods' conversion percentage and the third column is his rankling among PGA Tour players. 

Putting from Inside 5'



Putting from 5-10'



Putting from - 10-15'



Putting from - 15-20'



Putting from - 20-25'



Putting from - > 25'



Putting from 5-15'



Putting from 15-25'



Putting from 3-5'



Category: Golf
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