A Lesson Learned: Better Lags mean Better Scores

By John Reger Jr., PGA
Published on

Sometimes, the best way to learn from the Tour professionals is to take a moment and consider that these players are the best in the world. Sounds simple, but really, we all forget that from time to time.

I've heard it described that the difference between a professional and an amateur golfer is that the amateur makes a shot of skill look spectacular while the professional makes it look routine. That makes a lot of sense.

Consider the one area of golf that we can theoretically do as well as Tour players: Putting. There is no great feat of physical strength or incredible dexterity needed to putt. In fact, all golfers have made a long putt before, just like the Tour players we see every week.

As I watched the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club, it was obvious to me that there IS a difference. These guys on TV are unbelievable! In fact, now that the PGA Tour literally measures each and every shot by laser, the Shotlink System shows exactly how amazing these guys are -- as they go about making it look routine.

Consider Phil Mickelson on the final hole of regulation. Even CBS's Jim Nantz warned his birdie attempt was a length of putt "not holed very often." But from 26'9", Mickelson made the tough putt and earned his way into the playoff. This was reminiscent of the putts he made last week at Pebble Beach when he went on to win. Then on the second playoff hole, Bill Haas drains one from 45 feet! Stats show Mickelson's putt had a 9% liklihood of going in based on Tour statistics. Haas' putt had a 3% chance of going in. This is against the Tour average. Big-time players come up big when it matters!

Now for the rest of the golf world. Instead of looking at the putts made, consider the putts missed! 91% of Tour players miss from Mickelson's distance, 97% miss from Haas' distance. So what are the odds you'll make these?

I like to stress to amateur players that speed is critical in making you a better putter. One thing Tour players are great at on the greens is avoiding the three-putt. On average, they have about one every two rounds. If you work on your lag putting, get the ball to tap-in distance from anything more than 10 feet and your scores will drop.

On TV, we see highlights of long bombs dropping on the greens and great saves or birdies pouring in from all over. But that's not the reality. Not even for the world's best. They know the secret to good scores is not necessarily making the long putts, it's making good long putts that leave you with "gimme" tap-ins instead of grinding over 3- or 4-footers for par.

Work on your lag putting skills for awhile, your scores will reflect it very soon.

John Reger Jr., has been a member of the PGA since 1982 and has served in a variety of roles in the golf industry that includes golf professional, tournament announcer, golf course owner, tournament player, broadcaster, consultant, golf manufacturer, promoter, golf course developer and student of the game. John is the Founder and President of Briefcase Golf, Inc. based in Gainesville, Florida and co hosts a weekly syndicated radio show on ESPN stations across the state of Florida. For additional information visit

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