It’s official. You may kick sand in the face of Tiger Woods, who Wednesday proclaimed himself the 97-pound weakling of the PGA Tour.
I’m Corey Pavin. “I’ll be the Corey Pavin of my group,” Woods told reporters Wednesday after playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational pro-am. “Seriously.”
Woods compared himself to the five-foot, nine-inch captain of the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup team, who, at an average of 251 yards off the tee, ranks 193rd on the tour in driving distance. He made the connection because he’ll play his first and second rounds of Arnie’s tourney with boom-boom boys Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland.
“Those guys’ll be bombing it away out there past me,” Woods said on the eve of going for his seventh win at Bay Hill Club & Lodge and first victory in almost 16 months.
Woods admired how guys like Johnson and Woodland had changed the game since he appeared on the scene as a fresh-faced rookie. “It’s a new game now,” he said. “When I first came out on tour, I was second-longest on the tour at 296. There was only one guy at the time, John Daly, [who] was over 300.
“If you’re not over 300 now you’re not in the top 15,” Woods added. “The game has really changed, it’s gotten long.”
Athletes on tour. Woods practically swooned over how “we’re going to finally get athletes…with all that speed and power” on the tour, citing six-foot, four-inch Johnson’s ability to jam a ball through a hoop. Both Johnson and Woodland, at six foot, one inch, played basketball but chose golf as their professions.
Ceding distance to his playing partners, Woods will look to his putting to help him break his winless streak. In the midst of revamping his entire swing, from driver to flat stick, Woods conceded he had put his old putting stroke back in his bag.
“I went back to all the old stuff my dad and I used to work on,” he said. “That’s when I felt that my stroke became more sound, more solid, my speed became better.”
As PGATour.com’s Brian Wacker noted, Woods needed something to kick start his short game. The former ace of the putting surface dropped from being a perennial top-10 performer to 101st in average putts per round this year. He was also 101st on short putts within five feet, and 64th on putts from five to 10 feet this season, Wacker said.
Whether it’s switching between his familiar Scotty Cameron and a Nike Method putter, or dedicating more practice time to the green, Woods may be showing signs of breaking out of his putting slump. Wacker observed that Tiger had three-putted just once in the three events he had played in 2011, and needed only 25 short strokes in the final round at Doral earlier this month.
Father knows best. It’s also possible that leaving his putting woes behind may turn out to be as simple as reverting to what his father taught him way back when.
“I don’t know what that dude saw in my game,” Woods said, “but he really knew putting and…my dad really knew my stroke.”
Woods really may be the guy in his group who’s always away. Read how Tiger will have his work cut out for him to keep up with the big hitters at Bay Hill.