What made Tiger such a good putter? Repeating this simple phrase.

Tiger Woods putt

Tiger Woods has a reputation as one of the greatest putters ever.

Getty Images

Tiger Woods is widely regarded as one of the best putters of all time, especially during his his circa-2000 heydey. But what can recreational players learn from Woods’ approach on the greens?

On this week’s episode of Off Course with Claude Harmon, short-game guru John Graham offered his take.

“I think it boils down to the phrase he would always say, which was: You gotta putt to your picture,” Graham said. “The quality of his picture was as good as there comes, and then all he tried to do was just putt to the picture. Match your speed to the line that he had in his head. He was obviously one of the best green-readers of all time. When his speed was matching, he just made.

Keegan Bradley with hands on face
Where putting yips come from, according to a top Tour putting coach
By: Jessica Marksbury

“It wasn’t ever like trying to make a stroke,” Graham continued. “It was always — he always talked about putt to the picture, putt to the picture, match my stroke to the picture.”

So what’s the takeaway for us mere mortals?

“The quality of the picture that you can produce relative to what’s really going to happen, I think is the No. 1 contributor to putting skill,” Graham said. “When I talk to very good putters from the past to now, it’s the quality and the [clarity] and the conciseness of the picture they think they need, both in terms of line, speed, direction, all of those things that they can just draw right out: This putt is gonna do this. And all I have to do is just let myself let that picture come out.

“It’s almost like they’re painting,” he continued. “They’re trying to visualize a canvas, like they’re drawing something on it. [Tiger’s] ability to do it when it mattered the most, that’s a whole other level of picture trust than I’ve ever experienced. But I think it comes down to just that one single phrase.”

For more from Graham, including where putting yips come from, and whether or not your geographical location actually affects your putt’s break, check out the full interview below.


Golf.com Editor

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.