Credit Woods' putter for recent success

ATLANTA -- In the end, the story wasn't about Tiger Woods winning the FedEx Cup, nor was it about him winning the Tour Championship. No, the real headline was just how dominant his performance actually was.

After all, it's not difficult to see how well Tiger Woods is playing these days. Just check the numbers: seven PGA Tour victories in 2007, including four of his previous five starts, the last of which came in the form of an 8-stroke differential on Sunday.

It does, however, take a keen eye to understand why this has happened. Is Tiger doing anything differently? Has he changed his swing recently? Why is he winning in such dominant fashion?

Enter Hank Haney. Woods' swing instructor since 2004, Haney has seen the lows (no stroke-play wins that first season) and the highs (five major championships since then) in almost four full seasons since they officially started working together. Though he wasn't on site at East Lake Golf Club for the most recent victory, he knows the world's top-ranked player has kicked things into an extra gear.

"No doubt that Tiger has turned the corner in confidence in his swing, that has been the big change," Haney said via e-mail on Sunday. "He has his weight more on the balls of his feet at address and that changes his posture and makes him look like he is closer to the ball. ... I have seen him play like this for the last two years, but it has mostly been at Isleworth [Woods' home course]. I really point to the first tee shot on Saturday at Oakmont [during the U.S. Open] as the big breakthrough in his confidence to take his swing to the course and he has been better since then."

And yet, that big breakthrough may not be the key to Woods' recent run of success. After all, he has delivered an unflappable swing at other times during his career, but it's quite possible that it has never before been accompanied by such a solid putting stroke.

One week after leading the field in both putting average and putts per round at the BMW Championship, Woods finished first in both categories at East Lake, never once three-putting through 72 holes.

"The reality is that Tiger is putting great the last few weeks," Haney said. "No amount of ball striking can overcome bad putting, especially when you have to shoot the scores that these guys have shot the last couple of weeks. You take any top player, make them No. 1 for the week in putting ... any top player putts like he has and he will be tough to beat."

The numbers are staggering. Woods owns four wins and a second-place finish in his last five PGA Tour appearances, carding a collective score of 75-under-par during that span. In his last six rounds, he's 37-under, including brilliant scores of 64-63-64-66 at the Tour Championship.

Asked about his putting after the victory, Woods broke into a broad smile, saying, "I don't know how many amazing putts I made this week, I really don't. Like I told Stevie [caddie Steve Williams] early in the week, I really tried to make it feel as if I was back in junior golf because the greens were basically this speed in junior golf, a little bit bumpy, and you have the same mentality, get up there and just whack it, make sure you get it to the hole."

Woods got it to the hole -- and in the hole -- quicker than anyone else in the field this week. He needed an average of only 27 putts per round and 1.517 putts per green in regulation on greens that were among the softest and slowest all season.

"Because they were so much slower than we're used to, we didn't have to play as much break and you didn't have to feed them into the holes," Woods said. "So it was a lot of low lines. It took me a little bit to get accustomed to seeing putts on the low lines because I've been accustomed to seeing putts on the high side and trying to feed the ball to the hole. That's what made this week so different than the prior weeks."

Though he paused at calling it his best putting week as a pro -- "I putted pretty good in '97 at Augusta and 2000 at Pebble [Beach]," he said -- even Woods seemed impressed at the way he rolled it at East Lake.

In a day and age when most players switch putters seemingly on a week-to-week basis -- heck, Woods' final-round playing partner on Sunday, Mark Calcavecchia, even simultaneously carried two putters in his bag recently -- Tiger has remained true to the same Scotty Cameron model since 1998.

So while the experts and pundits try to credit Woods' recent success on any subtle swing changes or a more focused determination when compared with his fellow competitors, listen to Haney when he says with authority, "It still comes down to putting most of the time."

Or take it from Calcavecchia, who succinctly admits, "Putting, he's the best ever. Best ever, period."

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com