PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods is still without a swing coach at this week’s Players Championship, but he’s bringing in an extra set of eyes on the greens.
Woods played a practice round with Justin Thomas and Trey Mullinax Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass and consulted with Thomas’ coach Matt Killen on and off throughout the morning.
The two have known each other for a while and spent some time talking at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, where Woods was a vice-captain. Woods has since played several practice rounds with Thomas and said that Killen is familiar with his game as a result.
“I wanted him to take a look at it and see what he thought of where my setup looked like now versus all the times I’ve putted well,” Woods said. “I’ve putted well with different postures throughout my career. I’ve done different things. But I wanted him to take a look at it, and then he mentioned a few things. As I’ve started to feel a little bit better this week or this past week, then the putting definitely freed up.”
Woods hasn’t worked regularly with a coach since splitting with Chris Como in late 2017. The consultations with Killen seem to be experimental for now, and the two talked casually on the course.
Killen, who has also worked with J.B. Holmes, declined to speak about their relationship and said he’d let Woods address the matter during his press conference.
“I had been feeling that my stroke has been off, but a lot of it is physically,” Woods said. “I’m having a hard time getting into the different postures. As my body’s felt better, my stroke has come back a little bit. But I also wanted to see where I was off (and) what did he see?”
Woods said the neck issue that forced him to withdraw from last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational first started bothering him during the Genesis Open at Riviera and got worse at the WGC-Mexico Championship the following week.
There was a correlation, Woods said, between the neck discomfort and two deflating putting weeks. He had five three-putts and one four-putt in Mexico City and three-putted six times throughout the week at Riviera. That’s what held him back from serious contention during two strong ballstriking weeks, good enough for a T-15 at the Genesis and T-10 at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Woods also said that while the neck made it worse, the putting hadn’t been great to begin with coming off a T-20 finish in his 2019 debut at Torrey Pines.
“As my neck got a little bit tighter, yeah, I didn’t feel comfortable with my putting. But my putting was uncomfortable going into that point. It just made it worse.”
Woods didn’t look to be in any noticeable pain Tuesday morning. He teed off on No. 10 at 8 a.m. and was in control with the driver for most of the round.
We’ll see if the putting looks better under the gun when he tees off at 1:27 p.m. Thursday afternoon with Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson. And we’ll see what the long-term outlook is for Killen and Woods, who switched putters several times last season and decided to look for outside help.
“The longer you play, we’re all going to have patches where we just don’t putt well and where we make everything,” Woods said. “And I’ve had my share of runs where I’ve really played well.”