MAP IT OUT: I spend a lot of time charting the greens during practice rounds. The prep work really pays off.
You've probably heard me talk about releasing the putterhead, letting it swing to the inside after impact. It's the reason I do my one-hand drill (right), and it's a big part of my pre-putt routine. Two other keys for me are being familiar with the greens and preparing for the speed differential from course to course.
My caddie, Stevie Williams, and I have charted the greens on every course we've played. That knowledge is essential to a tour player because we basically play the same courses every year. I recommend similar due diligence for you on courses you play a lot. Take notes on hole locations, paying attention to breaks and direction of grain. You'll be more comfortable on the greens -- and make more putts.
If you're a "feel" putter like I am, consider using lead tape on the bottom of your putter when greens are slow. I'll use from one to three pieces, depending on speed. That lets me make a consistent stroke no matter where I'm playing.
My key to straight irons
I think of hitting the ball with the back of my lead hand
There are several keys to good iron play, but none is more important than an under-standing of how the back of the lead hand works at impact. It's critical for accuracy and solid ball-striking.
Straight shots are hit with the back of your lead hand square to the target at impact. Crooked shots occur when the back of your lead hand is anything but square, because that hand mirrors the clubface.
All too often, I see my amateur partners slice or hook a routine iron shot off the planet without any idea why. Banana balls result when they hit the ball with the side of the hand leading through impact. Snappers result when they turn their hands over too much. In both cases, the back of the lead hand is compromised.
To improve your iron play, feel as if you're hitting the ball with the back of your lead hand facing the target, the shaft leaning slightly forward. This will help produce a nice divot on the forward side of the ball pointing directly at your target.
Photo: Stephen Szurlej
__FOUR FOR FOUR IN 2008?
Q: Do you think you can win the Grand Slam this year?
-- John Anderson / Binghamton, N.Y.__
A: For most of my career, I've managed to win more than four tournaments a year, so all I have to do is win the right four. I think if you have luck on your side and all the stars line up, it's certainly possible.
Q: Has the second cut of rough at Augusta National made the course tougher or easier?
-- Jamie Baldwin / Youngstown, Ohio__
A: Overall, I would say easier because the ball holds up, and you don't have to deal with the pine straw or trees. You do catch occasional flyers, which is not what you want going into those greens. Ideally, you want to be able to spin the ball as much as possible to control your shots.
Q: Some have criticized you for not taking stands on social issues. How do you respond?
-- Carrie Winthrop / San Francisco__
A: I disagree. I'm socially active every day of my life with my foundation. We bust our tails to try to give as many kids as possible the opportunity to better their lives, go to college and give back to society. So far, more than 15,000 kids have gone through the Tiger Woods Learning Center. That's my focus.
Tiger Woods writes instruction articles only for Golf Digest.
Mark Soltau is a contributing editor to Golf Digest and the editor of TigerWoods.com.