*Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week Kevin notes that Tiger Woods made six important putts of four feet and longer in the final round on his way to winning his seventh Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Hinton examines the putting setup changes Woods made last week with his teacher Sean Foley, and explains the importance of starting with your shoulders aligned correctly.**
*Here's Kevin: Tiger can thank his improved putting as a key to his win at Bay Hill, and potentially a springboard to more victories in 2012. In the final round alone, he made putts of 14 feet on No. 4, four feet on 8, seven feet on 11, eight feet on 14, 12 feet on 15 and four feet, seven inches on 17. As simple as Sean's tweak to Tiger's setup was, having your shoulder's square at address can be quite important. If we watch golf on TV for one afternoon, it isn't difficult to see how many different putting styles can get the job done. (Take a look here at the winning putting styles of 2011.) Most good putters on tour try to set up with their shoulders square at address. Here are few thoughts on putting alignment:
Everything square isn't a must
There are many great putters who set up up with their feet open at address. Brad Faxon is a prime example. There are fewer players who set up closed to their target line (pointed to the right for a right-handed golfer). South African Bobby Locke is the first player most instructors think of. Locke would aim to the right, and pull-hook his putts back on line. While it certainly worked for Locke, being closed at address is typically a tougher way to putt. Check the video below from 2010. While Tiger practices his one-handed drill with the putterhead between two tees, note his shoulders seem slightly open at address. Also, the putts he misses miss to the left. Also note that, until this past week, he hasn't putted consistently well since he won the BMW in 2009.
Shoulders trump feet__
The shoulders have a far greater effect on your putting stroke than your feet do. Even on Tiger's drill in the video, some of the putts he hits are with his feet aligned well left. Shoulder alignment, however, affects the forearms, and forearm alignment greatly influences the path your putter will take. Open shoulders will lead to more of a "slice" stroke, while closed shoulders typically cause the putter to track too far to the inside in the backstroke, leading to pushes and a "hook" stroke. For a quick check-up, simply set up to a ball in front of a mirror, as if you're putting directly toward the mirror. Without changing your posture, swivel your head toward the mirror to check your shoulder alignment. If your shoulders are square and your forearms aligned, you'll only see one arm (your lead arm).
Use your full swing as a clue to fix your putting
There are few absolutes in golf, but I often see the same patterns throughout a player's game. If you tend to set up open at address to your driver, slice your fairway woods and take the club too far to the outside on your pitch shots, it's unlikely you'd have a "hook" putting stroke. In watching Tiger's pre-shot routine on full swings, he makes many rehearsals that exaggerate a cut. He and Foley have worked hard on avoiding hooking the ball, and the outside-in practice swings Tiger makes are evidence of that. Maybe all the "anti-left" practice Tiger has been doing crept it's way into his putting setup. But it sure seems that Foley has Tiger "squared" up for now.