As expected, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans provided great golf, great drama and a great finish. For the second straight year, the tournament went to a playoff and golf fans enjoyed some extra holes to determine a champion. And a worthy one was certainly crowned.
Congratulations to Jason Dufner, a golfer who has earned a legion of fans through his low-key demeanor, his trademark waggle, his perserverance through some tough losses and of course, some incredible golf skills. This was a first PGA Tour win for Dufner, but I doubt it will be his last.
As I watched Dufner and Ernie Els battle down the stretch, I continued to focus on how both players were able to make mistakes and then save themselves by draining some critical putts. This struck me as a great lesson for amateur golfers everywhere. Of course, all golfers are going to hit some poor shots, and 99.9% of amateur players won't have the skills or strength to make certain recovery shots like the best Tour players - but all golfers can work on saving strokes on the green.
Yes, both players made their share of birdies, whether tap-in types or long bombs. But really shows fortitude was their ability to hit putts that saved par, and kept them in contention. Ernie Els made a ten-footer on the 12th and the 14th, both par savers, while Dufner made an 8-footer on the 14th and then a ridiculous 45 footer on the 16th. In fact, both Els and Dufner played the last seven holes making only pars.
If you can find ways to develop a more consistent and confident putting stroke, you will save yourself from a wide array of less-than-great shots that all golfers are going to hit (some more than others.)
One drill that happens to be one of my favorites is the Circle Putting Drill. The concept is easy, the practice is simple, the benefits are huge.
There are a number of variations of the drill, but my recommendation is:
1.) Find a hole on the practice green and drop five or six balls about 3 feet away from the hole.
2.) Make smooth strokes as you move around the circle, hopefully making each putt.
3.) If you miss, start over until you make them all.
4.) After you've made them all, move the balls out another couple of feet.
5.) Ultimately, move out to about 8 feet. You don't have to make them all, but make enough to know you will feel comfortable and confident anytime you have a putt of thise length.
The benefits of this drill are that you will improve your putting fundamentsls, you'll develop confidence, and you'll be more used to putting under pressure.
Also important to note. When faced with a par saving putt of 6-10 feet (and we all have quite a few of these), you should hope to make all of these, but do not get frustrated if you miss. You have the ability to make them, but even the best players miss these putts as often as they make them. Putting is also a frame of mind, you have to accept that you won't make them all. But that doesn't mean you can't make every one of them. Use the Circle Putting Drill, you'll start making more. Good luck!
Mike O'Malley is the PGA Head Professional at The Georgia Club in Statham, GA.