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The intensity is back

So, after all the analysis of the swing, the slo-mo scrutiny of whatever is the mystery that he is working on unravelling with his deep-thinking coach, Sean Foley, it turns out that all Tiger really needed to jump-start the second phase of his career, the ‘post-trauma years’, was a 30-minute putting lesson with his long-time Ryder Cup colleague, Steve Stricker.

On the practice green at Doral, Stricker advised Tiger to get the grip of the putter higher up in the palm of the left hand, so as to create a slightly higher arch of the left wrist at the setup, dampen down any unwanted wrist action, and, as a result, release the toe of the putter more freely through the ball.

The favour was quickly returned. In a wry twist of poetic injustice, it was Stricker, of course, who then came off second best as Tiger produced the finest 72-hole putting performance of his career to win his 76th tour title (the 77th coming just a couple of weeks later). One hundred putts over the four rounds.

Can you even begin to imagine what that feels like? Tiger’s prowess with the blade is quite staggering when he gets into the groove, as he did again at Bay Hill, where Johnny Miller described his third round as ‘one of the top 10 putting rounds in history’. The stats are truly mesmerising. And watching Tiger hole out from inside 10 feet not only provides a model for all aspiring golfers to study, it reminds us exactly why ‘anchoring’ the belly and long-putter has to be consigned to history: Holing these putts under pressure is what tournament golf is all about; amateur or professional, it is the ultimate test of a golfer’s nerve, to swing the putter and stroke the ball along your chosen line. And there is no one, with the possible exception of Jack Nicklaus in his heyday, who does it better.

WHATEVER the outcome at Augusta (this issue went to press a week or so before the first major of the season got underway), one man was nailed-on to enjoy a very special week in Georgia. During the annual dinner inside the clubhouse on the Wednesday evening, John Hopkins will become only the second non-American ever to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism from the PGA of America. That’s a major title in anyone’s book, and we are delighted that the man who was for 17 years the chief golf correspondent at The Times has, for almost as long as that again been a regular and always engaging fixture among Gi’s editorial team.

Recognition such as this, from an esteemed group of his peers, is something I know John will cherish for the rest of his life. And he deserves it, too. A genuine love for the game of golf fuels every word he writes on the subject and his is an enthusiasm that delivers great copy to a golf-savvy audience. And as long as he doesn’t return from America too badly affected by the experience, and do something silly, like putting his rates up, we can all look forward to reading what he has to say for many years to come.

Enjoy the issue.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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