Dear Friends,

Dr. Putt hopes that you have found a little cool unstormy weather to play some golf in this summer. It has been miserable here in the southeast. But at least the bad weather has given Dr. Putt time to answer a lot of letters and do some thinking, though Dr. Putt maintains that the thought process is severely reduced at temperatures above about 80 degrees.This newsletter will focus on three things that are pretty much non-related or maybe it is just too hot for Dr. Putt to see any relationship.

1) Putting: distance or direction?

2) The in-line putting stroke

3) Tiger and the apple of knowledge

1) Putting: distance or direction?

A recent article by Dave Pelz in the July 2005 issue of Golf Magazine posed the question of whether distance or direction was more important on short putts. He concluded that direction was far more important as long as one hits the ball strongly enough to make it to the hole. The recipe for this is quite simple and is probably worth a stroke or two a round. On short breaking putts, aim at the high side of the hole and putt it firmly. How firmly? Enough to roll it about a foot and a half past the hole. If you are a little strong, it may still fall in from the high side (the hole is down hill of course). And if it is a little weak, it can still go since you aimed at the high side of the cup. On the other hand, if your aim is off, you do not have the luxury of having a little error in speed. The speed must be just right to fall in for a putt aimed too high and you would have to really ram it to get it to drop if you do not allow enough break.

Of course, as all of you know, aim is what the EOB device is all about. If you are aiming it where you want, then all you have to worry about is making that firm stroke. Ok, you caught me -- no more commercial plugs in this newsletter!

2) The on-line putting stroke

Dr. Putt has had several letters recently asking about how to execute an on-line putting stroke. Whether to putt with the blade making an arc or along the line of the putt has been a minor matter of controversy in putting for many years.

Dr. Putt has sided with Dave Pelz on this one. Pelz calls this the "PILS" stroke--Pure In Line Stroke. The reasoning here is simple: keeping the blade on the line of the putt eliminates one variable in putting. One does not have to worry about making sure that the arc of the path of the blade touches the intended line of the putt (or is tangent to the line) at precisely the right point. If that point is too early the putt is pushed to the right. If too late, the putt is pulled. If one is on line all the way, then too early or too late is a non-issue with respect to direction. Fewer variables means fewer errors.

So how does one perform this stroke? At address your hands must be directly below your shoulders. Execute the stroke with the arms and hands and shoulders in one piece by rocking the shoulders on a vertical plane. If you do these two things, the blade will follow a straight line. To make sure that you have the correct relationship between your hands and shoulders, you might line yourself up in a full length mirror using a door frame or some other vertical reference line in the background.

3) Tiger and the apple of knowledge

Several years ago Dr. Putt observed that Tiger was such a dangerous opponent on the golf course not only because of his power and accuracy but also because of his almost irrational confidence that he would always win--the euphoria of youth. Dr. Putt also observed that once Tiger lost a few he would start to lose some of that confidence and would become a more fallible opponent.

It seems to Dr. Putt that this has happened. Although Tiger is the most skilled all around player in the world and is in contention almost all the time in majors (who can argue with a 1 - 2 - 1 finish so far in 2005), he is now starting to look over his shoulder. He is not running away with tournaments when he has a chance to do that. This shows up in his putting where he is three putting more than in previous years and missing relatively short ones that could take all the drama out of a tournament. In short, Tiger now has lost enough that he knows he can lose.

So the door is open for Tiger to falter if only someone will challenge him in a consistent way. Fortunately for Tiger, all others have learned that they can and probably will lose to him in the crunch of a major tournament. So opponents fall away even as Tiger fails to run away from them.

Lessons for us? Tiger improved his swing mechanics and that has compensated for some of that lost confidence. We can improve our mechanics even if we were never good enough (or foolish of mature enough?) to think that we could never lose. For most of us, confidence rests on a swing that we have practiced a lot and a swing routine that blocks out all those times we did fail. And that is about the best we can do.

One last observation on Tiger in the British Open--if you watched his putting stroke carefully, you will note that he almost completely eliminated the little forward press he has sometimes used in the past. Other than that the putting stroke and routine is the same as it was years ago. When Dr. Putt first observed Tiger putting, Dr. Putt noted that Tiger seemed to putt better when he did not use a press with his hands before starting his backswing. While a press may help the hands get started in rhythm, it also de-aligns the clubface with the line of the putt.

Best regards
Dr. Putt