Tiger Woods’ Putting Precision: Lessons in Consistency

Dylan Potter, CFP®, VICE PRESIDENT, WEALTH MANAGER​

Tiger Woods' journey to becoming a golf maestro carries an additional layer of significance in the context of his early golf career. Contrary to the conventional pursuit of mastering the longest drive off the tee, Tiger consciously chose to prioritize an aspect of the game often deemed less glamorous – putting.

Golf green with golf ball next to hole

In his formative years, Tiger realized that while the spectacle of a powerful drive may capture attention, the true differentiator lay in the precision and finesse required on the green. He recognized that in the realm of golf, where margins for error are minute, the game could be won or lost within the subtle realm of putting.

I recently read a staggering statistic from NBC Sports, shedding light on the astonishing precision that defined Tiger’s putting between 2002 and 2005. During this period, the 15-time major champion missed a mere three putts out of an astounding 1,540 attempts from inside of three feet.

That equates to a miss rate of 0.00195%.

This statistical revelation serves as a testament to Tiger’s unparalleled consistency and focus in a realm where the long-distance drives dominate the highlight reel, but the almost unfathomable accuracy from within three feet ultimately wins titles over the long-term. Furthermore, Charles Market, better known on social media as “The Putting Engineer,” took the exact dimensions of Tiger Woods’ putter and used an advanced computer program to measure the size of the wear spot in the middle of the clubface. That worn sweet spot, comes out to just eight millimeters, or about the size of a dime. For context, worn spots of similar dimensions are common on robots used to test putters. In other words, Tiger was a robot when it came to putting. Does a three foot putt capture the headlines? Typically, no. When repeated in a robotic nature thousands of times does it cement you in the history books? Yes.

Being consistent and focusing on the boring aspects of any field, tends to work wonders over the long-term.

In the landscape of investing, there exists a temptation to focus on flashy, high-risk endeavors promising quick and substantial gains. However, Tiger’s deliberate choice to emphasize putting over driving resonates with the wisdom of prioritizing consistency over flashy strategies in the investment world. Prudent investors understand the value of focusing on the less sensational aspects of investing such as diversification, time horizon, and risk management. These ideas don’t grab headlines, but they may increase the odds of your long-term success and resilience. Tiger’s commitment to mastering putting, despite the allure of power drives, underscores the importance of identifying and honing skills that deliver consistent results rather than pursuing fleeting, high-risk endeavors. Forget the speculative ventures or chasing “the new trend.”

Consistency in investing is often misunderstood or even underrated in a world captivated by the allure of rapid gains (which generate books and stories and documentaries), volatile markets, and unneeded complexity.

Yet, much like Tiger Woods’ relentless focus on mastering the less glamorous aspects of golf, great investing comes down to boring consistency and an approach that can be repeated and sustained over the long term. A rule of thumb is good money tends to be slow money. In other words, if you can make it quickly, your odds of losing it even quicker probably increase by a factor of 10. Think about this in the context of Warren Buffet. The time component of compounding is why 99% of Warren Buffett’s net worth came after his 50th birthday, and 97% came after he turned 65. There’s no doubt he is a phenomenal investor, but Warren’s true superpower is having the stomach to remain continuously invested over 80 years through the ups and downs. Like Tiger Woods, he is remarkably consistent.

Recall in 2008 when Buffett wrote, “Over the long term, the stock market news will be good. In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497. You might think it would have been impossible for an investor to lose money during a century marked by such an extraordinary gain. But some investors did. The hapless ones bought stocks only when they felt comfort in doing so and then proceeded to sell when the headlines made them queasy.” The market would precede to fall another 24% after Buffett penned those words, but he kept buying U.S. stocks.

Consistent investing is often perceived as boring because it doesn’t promise the adrenaline rush of chasing high-risk, high-reward ventures.

It isn’t day trading. Instead, it involves prioritizing incremental gains over very long time periods in a way you can personally stomach. This approach mirrors Tiger Woods’ meticulous dedication to perfecting his putting game – not flashy, but undeniably effective and pivotal for long-term success.

I think Shane Parrish of the Farnham Street Blog said it best: “Ninety percent of success can be boiled down to consistently doing the obvious thing for an uncommonly long period of time without convincing yourself that you’re smarter than you are.”

Dylan Potter

Dylan is a partner, Vice President and Wealth Manager at Howe & Rusling.

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