Tiger Woods's swing tempo is back to perfect, and his putter is only a beat away

Tiger Woods’s swing tempo is back to perfect, and his putter is only a beat away

Tiger Woods switched putters for three rounds at St. Andrews, but his stroke may have been the source of his problems on the greens.
Robert Beck/SI

Dear Tiger:

You don’t know me, but I know you. Or rather, I know your golf swing.

For nearly a decade I have timed the swings of tour players using tournament video to explore the once mysterious subject of tempo. That faint beeping you hear when you practice? Those are the tones leaking from the earbuds of other players using my tempo training method.

Anyway, I thought you’d like some good news: Your swing is coming around. Granted, you were never in contention at St. Andrews and you finished 13 strokes back, but when you took a full cut, you looked more like the Tiger of old. I clocked you at a perfect 21/7 in the second round, when you nearly aced the par-4 18th. I had you at 24/8 on several other shots, which is how you swung a decade ago when you were winning tournaments by Oosthuizen-like margins.

Not following me? A quick tutorial. My research (and a subsequent study by Yale scientists) proved that virtually all tour golfers have the same tempo: a 3-to-1 elapsed-time ratio of backswing to forward swing, measured to impact. This ratio is expressed in frames of broadcast-standard video — e.g., 27 frames to the top of the backswing and nine frames down to impact for a relatively slow, Bobby Jones-type swing (a “27/9” in Tour Tempo parlance). Ernie Els in his prime was a 24/8. Jack Nicklaus was a brisk 21/7.

You used to be a consistent 24/8, but when you switched coaches, your swing speed increased dramatically and your tempo got ragged. At this year’s Masters, you were four frames quicker on the backswing and two frames faster back to impact. That may sound trivial, but the clubhead can travel three feet in one frame of downswing. Your British Open numbers weren’t perfect — you had a few six-frame downswings, which is ridiculously quick — but you hit the desired 3-to-1 tempo most of the time. Your swing was smoother, and you hit the ball long and straight again.

With the short stick, sad to say, you were the post­scandal Tiger. Two-to-one is the Tour-standard putting tempo, but your practice-green five-footers varied from 16/7 to 17/9. That left you frustrated and grumpy. You even changed putters between rounds.

Fortunately, for a player of your caliber, tempo is easy to fix. All it takes is a video camera or a stopwatch (or my earbuds). A little work should restore your stroke, leaving you in position to win your 15th major at Whistling Straits. But whatever happens, remember — I’ll be counting on you.


John Novosel

John Novosel’s book, Tour Tempo: Golf’s Last Secret Finally Revealed, is in its 11th printing.

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