Tiger Woods won again at the WGC Cadillac Championship.
That’s not what this blog is about. It’s about a fellow competitor, Steve Stricker and his role in Tiger’s win. Stricker came in second, two strokes behind Woods. That wouldn’t be blog-worthy.
What’s blog-worthy is that on Wednesday of last week, the day before the tournament started, Stricker gave Woods a putting lesson. And in spite of how the tournament turned out for Stricker and for Woods, Stricker never once bemoaned his choice of helping out his friend and competitor.
You should know that Steve Stricker may be the best putter in the game. He worked with Woods for about 45 minutes, suggesting subtle changes to his posture. The result: Woods started sinking putts and gaining confidence. And, in putting, confidence is the key.
There was a time when Tiger Woods was the master of putting. He was winning tournaments and majors and overwhelming his opponents. But as he hit hard times, his putting became merely mortal. Don’t get me wrong; recently he’s been winning even while not putting like the Tiger of old. Consider that in the past 19 tournaments played he has won five times, four of them before Stricker’s lesson.
Rory McIlroy (he’s number one in the world right now, although Woods is breathing down his neck) texted Stricker after the tournament: “PUT A SOCK IN IT NEXT TIME, MAN. YOU AWAKENED THE BEAST. WITH FRIENDS LIKE YOU, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES? SIGNED, JUST A GUY WHO WANTS TO HANG ON TO THE NO. 1 RANKING FOR A FEW WEEKS LONGER.” We’ll interpret his remarks as a little tongue-in-cheek ribbing.
What Stricker did is unique in sports. He offered a competitor advice, actionable advice that markedly improved his competitor’s performance. Woods completed the four rounds with exactly 100 putts. For any non-golfing-readers, that is lights-out putting. Can you imagine Peyton Manning going over to Tom Brady before the start of a game and offering some subtle advice on arm position that improves his passing and leads to a record-setting day for Brady? Not likely.
Remember, Stricker lost to Woods by only 2 strokes. His lesson could have been the difference between walking off with the trophy and $1.5 million rather than second place and $880,000. When asked if he regretted giving Woods the advice, Stricker said, “Who knows, he might have putted just as good without my help. He feels really good about what he’s doing on the greens, so that’s a good thing.”
In his post-game interview Stricker never second-guessed his choice to help out his friend. He knows it was the right thing to do. “It’s good to see him win even though he clipped me by a couple of shots. It’s always good for our tour and for us when he does well. He generates a lot for our sport. A lot of attention comes our way when he wins. It’s all good. And he’s a friend.”
Kudos to Stricker not only for being willing to give the advice but also to defend his decision even in the face of coming in second and all he didn’t win.
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."