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Short Game Success: Learn from Tiger’s Fundamentals

tiger woods short game

Tiger Woods is considered to have one of the best short games in golf history. His ability to get up and down from anywhere around the green is legendary. I remember watching Tiger at Pebble Beach in 2000 thinking that he was superhuman and feeling bad for the rest of the field. He shot rounds of Rounds of 65-69-71-67 in one of the greatest performances I have ever watched – and GolfWeek agrees.

At Pebble Beach that week, he set numerous records that still boggle the mind:

  • Score to par: -12 (72-hole record)
  • Margin of victory: 15 strokes (major championship record)
  • Led by 6 shots after 36 holes (U.S. Open record)
  • Led by 10 shots after 54 holes (U.S. Open record)
  • First player in U.S. Open history to finish double digits under par
  • 24 putts in first round (tied U.S. Open record)
  • 71% of greens hit in regulation (led field)
  • 299.3 yards average driving distance (led field)
  • Did not 3-putt once all week
  • Only 1 score above par all week (triple bogey in 3rd round)
  • 110 total putts for the week (6th best in field)
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Woods’ Short Game Keys

  • Imaginative shotmaking: Tiger has an incredible ability to visualize and execute creative shots like flop shots, bump and runs, etc. He can manufacture any shot he needs.
  • Versatile techniques: Tiger uses different techniques like wristy chips, pitch and runs, splash shots, etc. based on the lie and situation. He has all the shots in his bag.
  • Amazing touch and feel: Tiger has a knack for getting the ball to stop quickly on greens. His distance control and ability to impart the right trajectory is unmatched.
  • Great bunker play: Tiger’s bunker technique allows him to consistently extract his ball and get it close to the hole. He knows how to splash it high or play a lower running shot.
  • Clutch putting: Tiger is one of the greatest putters ever. He can make long bombs and tricky 5-footers when it matters most. His ability to read greens is phenomenal.
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What Average Golfers Can Learn

Here are some tips average golfers can take from Tiger Woods’ short game:

  • Focus on solid contact: Tiger simplified his short game after struggling by just making consistently solid contact. Don’t get too fancy before the basics are locked in.
  • Vary trajectories: Use different chip shots like low runners, mid-trajectory pitches, and high soft shots to match the situation. Mastering trajectory gives more options.
  • Practice from different lies: Don’t just chip off perfect lies at the range. Practice from bare, buried, uphill, downhill lies to handle anything.
  • Learn to be creative: Study Tiger’s imagination and ability to manufacture shots. Think beyond the standard techniques and practice new shots.
  • Spend time on putting: Tiger’s putting is a difference maker. Spend lots of practice time on the greens perfecting distance control. Check out our posts on Putting Aids, Nicklaus and Eye Dominance, as well as the Bobby Jones Putting Lesson.

Studying and emulating Tiger’s versatile and imaginative short game can help average golfers sharpen their skills around the greens and lower their scores. Mastering the basics, creativity, and clutch putting are key.

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Woods on Putting

Tiger Woods’ putting was otherworldly during the opening round of the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach. He one-putted 12 times over his first 18 holes, needing just 24 putts in total during his first round 65. This precision on the greens continued throughout the tournament, as Woods one-putted 20 times over the first two days. His mastery of the bumpy Poa Annua putting surfaces confounded opponents and dazzled spectators. 

Woods has made more clutch putts under pressure than perhaps any golfer in history. His mental toughness and ability to focus intently with “quiet eyes” sets him apart. Woods emphasizes feel and touch on the greens, learning lessons early on from Ben Crenshaw about the importance of a light grip pressure. His ability to repeat the same stroke under immense pressure has led to some of the most iconic putts in golf history, like his winning putt at the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods describes putting as a fascinating challenge he works diligently on and enjoys improving

Tiger Woods Putting Drill

Clock Drill

How it helped Tiger: Putting from all areas of the clock face simulated putts from every angle. It built confidence in pressure situations. Tiger used drills to reinforce mechanics, feel, and confidence.

How it can help you: Putting to random spots trains you to read greens and putt under pressure. You’ll improve directional control and green-reading. Sinking putts from all over boosts confidence for clutch moments. Applying focused practice can improve your stroke and ability to make putts when it matters most. The clock drill is a great way to groove your stroke and improve proficiency on short putts from all directions. It builds confidence in pressure situations. Use it regularly to hole more putts!

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How to execute:

  • Place a tee or ball marker at intervals of 3 feet and 6 feet around the hole, spacing them evenly like the hours on a clock face. You can use 4, 6, 8, or 12 markers.
  • Start with the closest markers at 3 feet. Attempt to make a putt from each marker position consecutively around the clock.
  • If you miss a putt, start over from the beginning. Once you make all putts at 3 feet, move back to the 6 foot markers.
  • Putt to each 6 foot marker in order around the clock. If you miss, start over at the beginning.
  • The drill builds consistency on short putts and helps you read breaks and adapt to putts from all angles.
  • For added challenge, do the drill on a sloped green using longer putt lengths up to 10-15 feet.
  • Focus on solid contact, reading the break, and developing a consistent routine on every putt.
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Short Game Drills

Chipping and pitching are essential skills in golf that can significantly lower scores when executed properly. Mastering these short-game shots requires dedicated practice to develop repeatable motions and ingrain proper technique.

In his book, “The Tiger Woods Way,” John Andrisani attributed Tiger’s short game brilliance to technical fundamentals combined with versatility and imagination. He lauds Tiger’s ability to hit a variety of precise wedge shots and be creative around the greens.

Some practice ideas:

  • Hit chips with just your trail hand to learn proper release and eliminate deceleration.
  • Play “darts” by randomly throwing balls around green and try to get up and down with each one without re-do’s.
  • Make smooth, slow swings with the Tour Striker Smart Ball or other aid between forearms to stay connected and maintain triangle shape.
  • Pitch to targets at different distances to dial in trajectory, spin, and landing area.
  • Vary ball position to learn effects on flight. Forward = higher, back = lower.
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tiger woods chipping

Ladder Drill

How it helped Tiger: The ladder drill helped Tiger improve his chipping consistency by grooving a repeatable motion. The drill involves placing balls at different distances from the hole and hitting each one, moving closer to the hole with each shot. This allows a golfer to dial in distance control.

How it can help you: Use this drill to improve your chipping consistency. Start with longer chips and work your way closer to the hole. Focus on consistent contact and controlling distance. Groove your chipping motion.

How to execute:

  • Place 5-6 balls at increasing distances from the hole (e.g. 10 ft, 20 ft, 30 ft)
  • Hit chips at each ball, working from furthest to closest
  • Focus on solid contact, consistent swing, and controlling distance

Gate Drill

How it helped Tiger: The gate drill improved Tiger’s ability to hit precise chip shots by ingraining the proper chipping mechanics. It trains correct hand and body action in the chip motion.

How it can help you: Use this drill to dial in your chipping technique. It will train proper hand release and body motion.

How to execute:

  • Place two clubs on the ground about 1-2 feet apart, creating a “gate”
  • Chip balls under the gate, focusing on shallow entry and proper release through impact
  • Ensure body rotates ahead of hands through impact to create correct release

Pitching Ladder

How it helped Tiger: Similar to the chipping ladder, this drill dialed in Tiger’s distance control on pitch shots from various yardages. It grooved consistency.

How it can help you: Use this drill to improve your distance control and consistency on pitch shots.

How to execute:

  • Place 5-6 balls at increasing distances from the hole (e.g. 20 yds, 30 yds, 40 yds)
  • Hit pitch shots at each ball, working from furthest to closest
  • Focus on solid contact, consistent swing, and controlling distance

Landing Zone Drill

How it helped Tiger: This drill improved Tiger’s ability to land pitch shots precisely in a specific zone. It enhanced his distance control.

How it can help you: Use this drill to master hitting pitch shots to a precise yardage. Dial in your landing spot.

How to execute:

  • Pick a landing zone and mark it off (e.g. 25-30 yards)
  • Hit pitch shots to the zone, observing ball landing spot
  • Adjust swing as needed to consistently land shots in the zone

Key Takeaways

  • Imagination – Tiger has an incredible ability to visualize and hit creative shots like flop shots, bump and runs, etc. He can manufacture any shot he needs.
  • Versatility – Tiger uses different techniques for chipping, pitching, bunker shots, etc. based on the situation. He has all the shots in his bag.
  • Touch – Tiger has amazing distance control and feel to get the ball to stop quickly on greens. His trajectory control is unmatched.
  • Fundamentals – Tiger focused on solid contact and mastering basics before incorporating creativity into his short game.
  • Practice – Tiger became great through dedicated practice on all types of lies, trajectories, and shots. His work ethic set him apart.

Further Reading

The Tiger Woods Way
by John Andrisani

Summary: The Tiger Woods Way by John Andrisani analyzes Tiger Woods’ powerful golf swing technique in order to help amateur golfers improve their games. The book explains Tiger’s unique setup position, shows how to increase resistance between upper and lower body for more power, outlines his ideal impact position, and reveals his iron swing fundamentals. Andrisani offers detailed, step-by-step instructions on emulating Tiger’s mechanics through practice drills and swing analysis. While lacking in diagrams and photos, The Tiger Woods Way provides useful insight into Tiger Woods’ revolutionary swing.

How I Play Golf
by Tiger Woods (2001)

Summary: In his instructional book, Woods reveals the physical, mental, and emotional techniques behind his golf mastery, from proper grip and swing mechanics to training regimen and focus.  Blending golf strategy with philosophical insights, Woods aims to help readers improve their game by adopting his meticulous, disciplined approach to practice and competition. While few can match his skill, Woods believes anyone can benefit from his strategic insights and methods for mental toughness, making “How I Play Golf” an invaluable resource for golfers of all levels. With detailed lessons and personal anecdotes, this book provides a comprehensive look at the record-shattering methods of one of history’s greatest golfers.

Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible

Summary: Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible analyzes the importance of mastering shots inside 100 yards to lower scores, based on statistical research showing short game proficiency is the key skill separating winners from losers.  Pelz scientifically studies elements like swing mechanics, trajectory, and green reading for pitching, chipping, bunker play, and putting to develop proper technique. The book reveals secrets like accelerating through impact, matching club selection to shot distance, and emulating a pendulum stroke to gain short game skills possessed by pros. Pelz emphasizes fundamentals over unconventionality, using physics-based analysis more than any instructor before him to elevate short game knowledge.

Tiger Woods
by Jeff Benedict & Armen Keteyian

Summary: “Tiger Woods” provides a comprehensive look at the life of one of the most famous athletes in the world, Tiger Woods. The book explores his rise to fame, personal struggles, and the carefully crafted illusion of his perfect life that unraveled after a Thanksgiving night car crash exposed his serial infidelity. The biography delves into Woods’ early life, his relationship with his parents, his meteoric rise in the world of golf, and the impact of his scandals on his career and public image. It also examines his efforts to rebuild his life and career after hitting rock bottom, offering insights into his determination, resilience, and enduring talent as a golfer.

Roaring Back: The Fall and Rise of Tiger Woods
by Curt Sampson

Summary: Curt Sampson’s “Roaring Back” chronicles Tiger Woods’s dramatic comeback and victory at the 2019 Masters tournament, detailing his fall from grace through scandal and injury as context for his against-the-odds return to glory. Structured in three acts, the book provides insights into Woods’s unyielding determination and meticulous preparation while examining his complex persona through interviews with coaches, peers, and golf journalists.  Sampson argues that Woods’s 2019 Masters win, after years of personal and physical setbacks, represents one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.  With exclusive interviews and reporting, “Roaring Back” captures a pivotal moment in the career of one of golf’s most legendary figures.

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