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The surprising reason why Tiger Woods’ latest surgery has improved his putting

October 24, 2019

Two months ago we found out that Tiger Woods battled knee discomfort all of last season, and it showed in his results the second half of the year.

After tying for 21st at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June, he missed the cut at the Open Championship, withdrew after one round from The Northern Trust and tied for 37th at the BMW Championship, which was his final start of the season. The next week, during the Tour Championship (which he failed to qualify for), Woods announced he had an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee to repair minor cartilage damage.

Woods said at this week’s Zozo Championship he had actually planned to have the cartilage issue fixed after the 2018 Hero World Challenge, but he put it off since he played well at the end of the 2018 season and ending up winning the Tour Championship. Woods said it got so bad it was affecting him while reading putts.

“You could see it towards the end of the year I wasn’t quite getting down on my putts well,” Woods said on Monday. “Unfortunately, I’ve been down this road before with knee rehabs and knew the protocols.”

But so far, so good, based off Thursday’s opening round of the Zozo, Woods’ first start of the 2019-20 season and first since the surgery. Even though he started with three straight bogeys he rebounded nicely, shooting 64 and tying Gary Woodland for the first-round lead.

“The putting was really good,” Woods said. “I was hitting a lot of good putts and the ball’s rolling tight, which was nice.”

While strokes gained: putting statistics aren’t available for the Zozo, you can’t shoot 64 without making a lot of putts. After his round Woods again spoke about how the surgery, and more comfort reading putts, has helped.

“At the end of the year, at Liberty and Chicago, my oblique wasn’t feeling very good,” he said. “I was trying to make compensations. Unfortunately, with the lack of movement that I had in my knee, my back took it, and that’s the last place I want to feel it. So it was nice to be able to feel that I’m able to rotate a little bit better, able to clear better, and more importantly, be able to squat down and read putts. I was able to get down there today, which I’ve been doing at home, and that’s something that if you look at the video towards the end of the season, I wasn’t able to do very well.”

Woods tees off at 8:40 a.m. on Friday for his second round (7:40 p.m ET Thursday). The last time he held a first-round lead or co-lead was at the 2018 Tour Championship, which he went on to win.