Putting is the key to winning! When you watch tournament golf, the momentum swings happen on the greens, the cameras focus on the action on the greens and victories are clinched, stolen or lost with the putter in the hand. Last week, The Players was a great example of the importance of putting for David Toms. He garnered a spot in the playoff by making a clutch 15 footer on the 18th hole and then lost the playoff with a 3 putt. His hopes literally lived and died with his putter.
In order to teach putting as effectively as possible, I categorized different distances that need to be mastered to be a great tournament putter. The first is 1-5 feet and these are the confidence putts. These are the putts that serve as clean ups after a lag or a chip or they are the certain birdie when you stuff an iron shot. The top 100 players on the PGA Tour are at or better than 96%, which means that if they faced ten of these putts each round, they might go two or three rounds before they would miss one.
The next distance, 5-10 feet are the round makers. If we look at the PGA Tour stats from this distance, the 100th ranked player is KJ Choi and he makes 55%. I am sure many of you out there expect to make every one of these you line up to, but the third leading money winner this year, Choi, has made only a bit more than half. The reality of this is important if you allow your misses to effect your confidence or your focus.
If you are putting from 10-20 feet, you are probably putting for birdie - or - your short game needs some work! This category is the par breaker category. Great putters from this distance control their speed well and pay attention to break. Poor putters from this distance often get too caught up in the line of the putt and fail to control the speed of the roll.
Putts over 20 feet are momentum changers. You don't expect to make them, but when you do, it is a boost. Many players accept failure from long distances. When they three putt, they blame a poor approach shot instead of their lack of skill on long putts. The best on the PGA Tour at making putts over 20 feet is Ryan Moore and he makes 2.4 per round. The 100th (huge tie) player makes only 1.1. That means that Ryan picks up 5 shots over that player in a four day event. At Riveria this year, those five strokes added up to a difference of over $200,000 in pay checks. That makes this category the money makers! To be great at long putts, you have to be great at reading greens, both for break and speed and you have to be great at visualizing the putt from beginning to end. After visualizing the putt, you have to be able to reenact it by starting it out on line and controlling your speed.
Our practice drills and challenges will be focused on one of these categories. Today's practice challenge will be to make some money makers. Here it is:
Find three holes that form a loose triangle of putts at least 20 feet apart. Take two balls and putt once to each of the other two holes. Make sure to go through your routine, visualize and focus. Your goal is to make both putts. If you don't, your secondary goal is to have both balls within about 1 foot of the hole. Move around the triangle and continue to putt until you make at least one putt from each hole. Give yourself a unique look and visualization with each putt.
This is a lot of writing for one little challenge, but from now on, your putting practice will focus on these categories: