HOW TO READ GREENS LIKE A TOUR PRO
Identify your speed before you pick your line
You won’t see me three-putt very often. Last year, I ranked 15th on Tour in three-putt avoidance with just 25 in 1,242 holes. I was also sixth in one-putt percentage at 43.64%. But the stat I’m most proud of is that I ranked No.1 in the PGA Tour’s ‘Strokes Gained – Putting’ category. On average, I picked up more than a stroke on the field in every round I played. Four shots over four rounds is massive.
The key to all of these impressive putting stats is distance control. I never want to leave a putt short because you can’t make the putt if it doesn’t get there, right? But that doesn’t mean I just blast away at the hole. You have to hit it at the right pace to take the break you want and leave yourself simple, stress-free tap-ins if you miss. I don’t want to see my putts finish any further than a foot past the hole. That is my entire philosophy on putting. Here’s how I make it happen.
Hone your feel “There’s an art to putting. Much of my success is built around feel. For example, if I’m teaching someone how to putt, the first thing I’ll do is ask them to tell me what they think is the most important thing in putting. Hopefully, they’ll respond by saying, ‘Speed’. Without knowing the speed of your roll, you can’t pick the line to match it. If you pick the line before assessing the speed, you’re going to hit the ball harder or softer from putt to putt if you subconsciously feel you don’t have the right line. That leads to inconsistency.”
Be aggressive “So many amateurs leave putts short because they’re afraid of hitting the ball too hard. But all of the good putters you see on Tour are, generally speaking, aggressive on the greens. But you have to practise a lot to develop this confidence. On a regular week off away from the Tour, I’ll spend two hours a day working on my putting, compared to maybe only an hour or so on my longer clubs.”
Trust your read “The biggest piece of advice I give to amateurs about greenreading is to trust your instincts and completely commit to the speed and line you’ve chosen when you’re about to putt. Second-guessing yourself will lead to manipulations during the stroke and you’re never going to putt consistently well by doing that.”
My favourite drill “To calibrate my speed and distance control, I putt balls from 15 and 30 feet on a flat section of the practice green. It’s all about feel from this range. You’re trying to make every putt, of course, but you’re also making sure the ball gets to the hole. My goal is to ensure that the ball doesn’t roll more than, say, six revolutions past the hole if I miss.”