He might have worked with Justin Thomas since his college days but it's Matt Killen is now best known for looking after Tiger's putting
Whoever Tiger Woods works with is always big news but the last time he’s worked with anyone was the end of 2017 when he and Chris Como went their separate ways.
These days Matt Killen is Tiger’s second pair of eyes on the greens, an area where Woods has struggled, relatively speaking, in recent times. At Torrey Pines, Riviera and Mexico last year Woods didn’t finish outside the top 20 but the putter let him down – he had six three-putts in Mexico and he described Riviera as the worst he’s had with the flatstick.
Hence Killen’s introduction.
The name rings a bell?
Killen has been described as a rising star but he’s been around the PGA Tour for over a decade.
His big break came when he was a teenager and his best friend’s dad just happened to be Kenny Perry and his fellow Kentuckian was looking for a spark. Killen spoke up and, come the 2008 Ryder Cup, he was working with three of the American players – Perry, JB Holmes and Chad Campbell – as well as the skipper Paul Azinger.
Some effort for a then 22-year-old.
Who does he work with now?
And, while he’s working on Tiger’s putting, he works on all parts of the game and is said to be an expert on body and clubface mechanics and not having a one-size-fits-all philosophy. And he knows how to get his message across.
“He’s good at saying things in different ways,” Thomas said. “He can dumb it down for you as much as you want or get as technical as you want to try and help out.”
How long’s he been with Thomas?
They’ve known one another for nearly 20 years through Killen’s work with Perry and Holmes and knowing Thomas’s dad.
“I would say a lot of people have now found out that he was my putting coach. A lot of people probably had no idea. It’s more of a friendship than it is a business relationship but he’s just helped me a lot with fundamentals.”
He’s also caddied for Thomas when his regular bagman Jimmy Johnson was injured and they started working together in Thomas’ freshman year at college.
“I went to the Kentucky Derby with him, I’ll go to concerts with him, he’ll come stay with me and hang out.”
How did Killen and Tiger come together?
They talked a bit at the 2016 Ryder Cup when Thomas made his debut and Woods was a vice-captain and these days Tiger and Thomas play a lot of practice rounds and social golf together in Florida.
“I’ve played a lot of rounds with JT and Matt has seen my stroke enough. I wanted him to take a look at it and see what he thought of where my set-up looked like now versus all the times that I’ve putted well and I’ve putted well with different postures throughout my career. I’ve done different things.
“Then he mentioned a few things. As I’ve started to feel a little bit better then the putting definitely freed up. I really respect what he sees. He’s very knowledgeable.”
What will they be working on?
Like much of Tiger’s game it depends on how his body is behaving but, again like Tiger, once he gets those little feels back then things will quickly come around.
“I like to putt with my right hand. I like to feel like the toe is releasing. I’ve had some hit in my stroke, which a lot of people try and take out, but I enjoy putting that way, and I’ve putted my best that way.
“If I can see the line and I feel like I’m releasing this thing and that toe’s flying over, I feel good. I grew up in more of a feeling like Bobby Locke and Ben Crenshaw and those guys of letting the putter go, and if I do that, I feel great.”