Vijay Singh has been among the best--if not the best--ball
strikers in the world for a long time. Erratic putting, made
worse by his habit of frequently changing putters and techniques,
has been the only thing holding him back. This year, though,
Singh has settled on a belly putter, and he's become less
mechanical and more feel-oriented with his stroke, replicating
the fluidity of his full swing. The results have been astounding.
Putting is now the glue that holds together Singh's game and the
reason he might end Tiger Woods's five-year stranglehold on the
Tour's money title. The numbers say it all. Last season Singh
ranked 106th in putts, with 29.04 a round. This year he has
jumped to 40th, with an average of 28.67. One third of a putt
every 18 holes might not seem like much, but that's a huge amount
on Tour. The improvement is reflected in Singh's dramatic rise in
birdie production. In 2002 he ranked 19th, with 3.99 a round.
This year he's first, with 4.47. After winning the Funai Classic,
Singh said that he had never putted better than he had at Disney
World, where he needed only 26.5 putts a round (third best in the
field). Perhaps his best stroke was a twisty 40-footer for birdie
on Sunday at 12 (above), which give him an untouchable
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ABC
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL SUGRUE Michael Breed teaches at Sunningdale Country Club in Scarsdale, N.Y., and is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher.
FOUR COLOR PHOTOMONTAGES: MICHAEL SUGRUE (BREED, PUTTER); TODD BIGELOW/AURORA (BACKGROUND)
OUR TOP TEACHER SAYS...
"Vijay Singh deserves an ironman award--he'll have nine more
starts than Tiger Woods this season--but definitely not the
player of the year prize. No matter what happens the rest of the
way, Woods is my POY."
"To grow substantially, the LPGA must team up with the PGA
Tour and, like pro tennis, create events in which men and women
compete against members of their own sex at the same venue."
"Stuart Appleby is my comeback player of the year. After
watching his wife die when she was hit by a cab in 1998 and then
enduring four winless seasons, Appleby has a win, three seconds
and is 10th in earnings this year."
"Jim Thorpe's runaway victory at the Charles Schwab Championship
proves that unorthodox swings can be efficient and effective at
the game's highest level."
CHANGE YOUR STROKE WITH A COIN
A good way to develop a smooth, rhythmic putting stroke is to
keep a coin on the back shelf of the putter head while practicing
(above). The slightest twitch or off-line movement during the
stroke will jar the coin loose. After taking your regular address
(1), pay attention to the position of the coin during the
backstroke (2) and at impact (3). If the coin hasn't moved,
you've made a silky stroke.