Woods working with putting coach at THE PLAYERS Championship
43-year-old said he's fully healthy after neck injury forced WD last week at Arnold Palmer Invitational
March 12, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Tiger Woods has engaged the help of Matt Killen to work on his putting after an unhappy start to the season on the greens.
Woods also declared himself fully fit to take his place this week at THE PLAYERS Championship after withdrawing from last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard with a neck injury.
Killen — who is known as part of fellow former FedExCup champion Justin Thomas’ team — is helping the 80-time PGA TOUR winner with his putting stroke. It comes after Woods produced six three-putts in each of his last two tournaments, the Genesis Open and the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, to quell any real challenge.
“I've seen Matt out here in the past year because he works with JT a lot, and I've played a lot of rounds with JT, either practice rounds here or at home, and Matt has seen my stroke enough,” Woods explained. “I had been feeling that my stroke has been off, but a lot of it is physically. I'm having a hard time getting into the different postures. As my body's felt better, my stroke has come back a little bit, but also I wanted to see where was I off, what did he see."
“I wanted him to take a look at it and see what he thought of where my setup looked like now versus all the times that I've putted well, and I've putted well with different postures throughout my career. … I've done different things … but I wanted him to take a look at it, and then he mentioned a few things.”
Woods said the neck tightness, which started during the Genesis Open and flared up further in Mexico, certainly contributed to his putting woes. But with that concern in his rear-view mirror for now, and with the help of Killen, he believes his putting stroke has “freed up”.
“The longer you play we're all going to have patches where we just don't putt well and patches where we make everything,” Woods said. “For me personally, if I can see the line and I feel like I'm releasing this thing and that toe's flying over, I feel good. That's a good feeling for me."
“Other guys don't putt that way, don't feel that way, but I grew up in more of a feeling like Bobby Locke and Crenshaw and those guys of letting the putter go, and if I do that, I feel great.”
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Former rival and fellow PLAYERS Championship winner David Duval, who is now an analyst for the Golf Channel, believes there’s no reason to sound the alarm bells.
Despite history showing that putting generally declines with age, Duval believes the 43-year-old is just tuning himself up.
“There’s not a whole lot of scar tissue involving Tiger Woods’ putting over the years,” Duval said on the Golf Channel. “If anything I would imagine that he’s asking for help, more restorative work. Trying to get back to the setup he had. The flow of the stroke he had. The position of his hands at address. The position of the golf ball in his stance at address. Those are the little things that you need to pay attention to.
“I don’t see any problems with Tiger Woods’ putting, other than that you might go simply to the age factor that certainly does play into it. It’s just [another] set of eyes to get some comfort and get some stability in what he’s doing.”
As for his neck issue, Woods said it’s not an issue this week, but it is something he must keep an eye on. He also intimated he would contend the World Golf Championships–Dell Technologies Match Play in two weeks for the first time since 2013 should he get through TPC Sawgrass unscathed.
His withdrawal last week was more precautionary as he looks to continue to manage his body after four back surgeries.
“It's not painful now. It was getting to the point where it was affecting my setup, my backswing, my through swing,” Woods said. “It was just gradually getting worse. That's just because my lower back is fused, and so the stress has to go somewhere if I don't have movement, and so it's very important for me going forward since the surgery to keep pliable or else the stress is going to go somewhere else."
“I'm 43 with four back surgeries, so just manage what I have and understand that I'm going to have good weeks and bad weeks and try and manage as best I possibly can and not push it. There are times when over the years I pushed it, pushed it through a few things, and I've won a few tournaments doing it that way, but also I've cost myself a few years here and there because of it.”
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