Tom Patri: Putter cost Tiger a Masters victory for dad

The Masters, golf’s rite of spring. It never fails, something a little crazy or dramatic happens coming down the stretch.

Two weeks ago, we had Tiger Woods wanting to win “extra badly” for his father back in California. It wasn’t to be. It is awfully difficult with the already present “major” and Masters pressure. Then to add the pressure of a dying father, not to mention best friend, was simply too much for the putter to bear. Tiger could surely have caught Phil Mickelson had his putter cooperated.

Not to take anything away from Phil. He played great. Then of course there was Mr. Fred, not to be confused with Mr. Rogers, although there are similarities. I was traveling back from a corporate event in Phoenix, and in the Dallas airport, watching between gates, when the three-putt at No. 14 occurred. I immediately got sick to my stomach. I received 25 e-mails and texts from folks about Freddie this, or Freddie that, or if Freddie could putt ...

For those of you who have never been to Augusta, or seen the 14th green, well, picture putting on a tile floor on a 20 percent sidehill incline from four feet with the world watching. Add to that, you’re 46, in the twilight of your “regular tour career,” and know this might be your last run at a major.

Well, it was not to be. It was really hard to watch a dear friend go through that. Except that Fred Couples has always had golf and life in pretty strong perspective. He, I promise you, will look back on this Masters fondly, as he has on his entire “golf life.” He has lived a dream playing the tour and having a blast.

He will return to Augusta every April, walk up the stairs to the second floor to the Champions Locker Room, and each Masters week put on his green jacket and attend the Champions Dinner with Phil and Tiger. Not bad company. Trust me, I know the kid from Seattle pretty well. He might be the one in the room having the most fun, and appreciating the night the most.

Two lessons here for all of us: First, let’s all keep this game in perspective. The life lessons this wonderful game teaches are humbling. Second, work on your putting!

Every year I give about 1,500 hours of private instruction. About 10 percent of that teaching and coaching time is on a putting green. Trust me, I try to drag folks in that direction much more often. I love to teach short game. I just don’t think the average bear understands how vital time is to touch. Repetition is the mother of learning. Putting is about 43 percent of golf. Do you spend 43 percent of your golf life working on your putting? When was the last time you took a putting lesson?

Next major stop, Winged Foot for the U.S. Open. I worked down the Hutchinson River Parkway a couple of miles away at Westchester Country Club for 11 years. The Foot is a bear. I mean an absolute bear. With the added length, the rough that will be present, and with those crazy greens, they might not crown a champion there, but in fact crown a “survivor” instead.

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Tom Patri’s teaching academy has moved to Lely Resort, with an indoor studio open at The Health Club of Naples on Immokalee Road. Patri is one of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers in America. He can be reached at To set up a lesson, contact Brandi Hanson at 597-0787 or e-mail, or go to

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