August 31, 2009

Tiger's Putter Infected With Acute Sergio Syndrome

This past weekend at Liberty National set up perfectly for a stalking Tiger Woods: one shot off of the lead on the 18th green, all Tiger had to do was stroke in a birdie putt to insure a place in at least a playoff, if not an outright win. Problem was, he did what he'd done all week -- he barely missed. From seven feet.

That is most unlike Tiger Woods.

"To miss as many putts as I did this week, to still have a last chance on the last green with a putt, it goes to show you how good I'm hitting it," Woods told reporters later. Then he added the lament of tournament golfers all the way back to Old Tom Morris back when the very idea of professional golf and tournaments to determine champions was being invented. "I just need to make a few more putts."

Faced with a twenty footer for par on the same green a few minutes later, journeyman Heath Slocum calmly brushed his ball into the cup, all but insuring victory for himself.

That is most unlike Heath Slocum.

"I didn't even know if I'd be here. I came in here with the attitude that I had nothing to lose," he said afterward. Indeed, Slocum was 124th in FedEx points, and barely got into the field after missing the cut in last week's Wyndham Championship. By a mere two points he was on his way to New Jersey, and to victory.

Now he's ranked 3rd in the FedEx Cup standings, not bad for a fellow who honed his golfing skills in the Redneck Riviera town of Milton, Florida with high school teammate Boo Weekley.

As for Woods, while he still has a solid grasp on the FedEx Cup points lead, this is his second consecutive tournament that he has let slip away thanks to a balky putter. Woods putting more has resembled his sometime nemesis and rival Sergio Garcia's of late, and he's let a major and now a playoff tournament slip away consecutively with sloppy flatstick play.

It's fair to ask the dreaded question about Woods: is in he in a putting slump?

Tiger never made a putt longer than fifteen feet all week at the Barclay's, and despite his five wins this season. Tiger may say that infamiliarity has bred contempt lately, but this week he will have no excuses. He'll be back on a familiar course at the Deutsche Bank in Boston this week, the revamped TPC Boston, which is hosting a FedEx Playoff event for the third consecutive year. Tiger has played this course many times before, and he will be far more familiar with the greens than he was at Hazeltine of Liberty National.

Whether Tiger Woods can putt like Tiger Woods or like Sergio Garcia is the biggest question heading into round two of the playoffs.

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