Watching the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am this week, there were more than a few things that stuck out to me. The importantce of a solid tee game was evident, distance control with short irons was obviously critical and managing your game was also a key for golfers. But this week, this tournament seemed to be about momentum and how to sustain it - and that was making putts, lots of them and at opportune times.
Early in the week we saw some very low rounds - like Dustin Johnson on Thursday at Pebble Beach. He made multiple eagles and had his putter going very well, resulting in a 9 under 63 on Thursday. The rest of the week his putting cooled and he was 2 under for the final three rounds total. Charlie Wi played well for the first three days making a lot of putts - then on Sunday he opens with a three putt from three feet. and though he battled valiantly the rest of the round, it felt like it was over for Charlie before it even started. Tiger hit the ball fine early in his Sunday round but couldn't make the putts. As he said, he was one-under through the first five holes and Mickelson was five-under in that same span. That was all the putter. I wonder what would have happened if Woods had made the short birdie putt on the par five second hole?
Then there was Phil - he came out of the gate fast with birdies at 2, 4, and 5. He was putting well and you could see it happening right before your eyes - BOOM - confidence. It was oozing everywhere. Make a 10 foot birdie and your driver swing on the next hole feels better. Make a birdie on four and you step up and flag it on number 5 for another. Phil got to the back nine and watched as Tiger holed a bunker shot - people going crazy - loud applause - everyone waiting for a shift in the dynmaics and the patented Tiger charge. So what did Phil do? Just calmly rolks in a long 35-foot par save and closes the door on any Tiger momentum. Then comes 15 - he's a little off with a wedge - hits an average chip - and it looks like he could let a bunch of people back into the tournament. But he manages to knock in a 40 footer to keep his round bogey-free and keep what will turn out to be an important cushion on his lead.
Timely putting can save your bad rounds and really keep your good rounds going in the right direction. I recently saw a tweet from Hank Haney that said the average Tour player practices his putting for at least an hour per day - yes, an hour on just putting. Here are a few things that I think can really help you with you putting and save some round for you.
Practice Your Putting! - If you have an hour to practice at least half of your time should be spent on the putting green. With most amateurs, between 40 - 50% of your score comes from putting. So why are so many people still on the driving range hitting there driver 50 times during a practice session?
Practice Like You Play - When you go to the putting green take one golf ball with you - and only one golf ball. When you are out on the golf course you don't get two or three or four chances from the exact same location - so why would you practice that way? One ball - go until it is in the hole. Repeat. Often.
Distance Control - I think one of the items in putting that most amateurs lack is good distance control. Here is a great drill to help gain some more distance control. Take the flagstick out of the hole and lay it down about two feet behind the hole. Next, simply putt at the hole. The objective is to get the ball all the way to the hole (don't leave it short) but don't hit it so hard that it hits the flag stick. You can do this from any distance and I guarantee it will help with your distance control - you will hole more putts and leave yourself closer second putts.
Good luck and I'll see you on the putting green!