If you were looking for model golf swings to teach to a new player, Inbee Park’s would not immediately jump to the top of your list. Not that the new Kraft Nabisco Champion has swing flaws; it's just with her slightly closed clubface and steep plane, it is a swing that requires good timing and a steady base – perfect for Inbee, but not for everyone.
Her putting stroke is a different matter.
Inbee won her second major by being No. 1 in putting for the week, which didn’t surprise anyone who follows women’s golf. She has averaged 28 putts per round for two years, so when he hits a lot of greens in regulation, as she did at Mission Hills, she is hard to beat.
Her putting stroke is a thing of beauty, as rhythmic as rushing water and consistent in every circumstance. As a result, she drained one putt after another in the desert, capturing her second major with what appeared to be relative ease.
The key to Inbee’s stroke is the total lack of tension in her arms and shoulders. If you were to walk up and grab her putter at address you could pull it out of her hands because of how loosely she holds it.
Grip pressure is a tricky subject, because you need enough to control the putter face. But too much pressure leads to tension, which impedes your ability to make a free, rhythmic stroke. Being in a tense situation exacerbates the problem. Whether it’s a woman playing in her first nine-hole ladies' day event, or a leader teeing off in the final round of a major championship, the heart races, the breath quickens and tension increases, starting in your hands and running throughout your body.
That tension shows up in all parts of your game, but especially in putting. It’s why you often see tournament leaders struggle to hit putts the right speed. Inbee didn’t have that problem. Even the putts that didn’t go in looked good. She had command of the speed, and most cases the line. When she missed, she left herself tap-ins.
You can achieve that same consistency, but only if you rid yourself of tension in your arms and shoulders. One trick to get you there is to take long, deep breaths as you line up your putts. You should count slowly to five as you inhale and then again to five as you exhale. You will feel the tension melt. As a result, you will make better putts and become more consistent on the greens.
Suzy Whaley is the PGA teaching professional at the TPC of River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn