‘Good bal­ance, the proper grip and ac­cep­tance are key to good putting’

Golf World (UK) - - TOUR TIPS -

What’s your putting phi­los­o­phy?

It’s a ‘game within a game’ be­cause it is dif­fer­ent from the full swing. But I don’t think it’s some­thing peo­ple should be afraid of ei­ther. You can learn to love putting, just be­cause it’s so re­moved from the rest of the game. Work­ing on your putting cer­tainly isn’t like stand­ing on the range hit­ting balls, which pretty much ev­ery­one en­joys do­ing. There’s a lot of feel in­volved in good putting. In short, putting in­volves a dif­fer­ent tech­nique, method, skill set and men­tal­ity.

What is most im­por­tant?

The key is bal­ance – both front-to­back and left-to-right. That’s an as­pect of putting that is much over­looked. In the full swing you have ro­ta­tion, move­ment and weight trans­fer, but when I’m putting all I want is to be as steady as I can be. I think of it as be­ing ‘planted’ on the ground, or ‘heavy,’ as I like to call it. If you have that, main­tain­ing your pos­ture is a lot eas­ier to do. And that makes con­sis­tency of pace, tempo and strike much eas­ier.

What’s go­ing through your mind at ad­dress?

In­side my shoes, I lift my toes. That gets my weight on my heels and the balls of my feet, which is not to say my weight is too far back. When you lean for­ward, the heav­i­est part of your body – your head – is for­ward. To coun­ter­act that, your back­side has to go the other way. And when you go into any kind of mo­tion, your in­stinct is to find your nat­u­ral bal­ance point. That means keep­ing your head per­fectly still. If you look at the very best putters over the years – Tiger is a great ex­am­ple – their heads never move dur­ing the stroke. But that hap­pens be­cause he main­tains bal­ance and pos­ture.

We all miss more putts than we hole. How do you deal with that psy­cho­log­i­cally?

I blame some­thing other than my­self (laughs). But mostly, I’m ac­cept­ing. I know I can hit a per­fect putt and it can still miss. On the other hand, I’ve hit many poor putts that have gone in. By know­ing both – and say­ing them to my­self of­ten enough – I re­move pres­sure from any putt. I have no ex­pec­ta­tion, which frees me up to hit a good putt and ac­cept what­ever hap­pens.

Do you have any other psy­cho­log­i­cal tricks?

I like to set my mind on some­thing other than the re­sult. I go to lit­tle thoughts and feels at ad­dress. Re­tain­ing the an­gle in my left wrist – ‘high’ is how I think of it – through im­pact is one I like. Or main­tain­ing a lit­tle ten­sion in my legs to main­tain my pos­ture. Just some­thing I can fo­cus on while the putt takes care of it­self.

Is putting as much an art as a science?

It’s a blend of both but for me, too much science is detri­men­tal. I’ve over­done it at times. I like to have enough in­for­ma­tion, but no more than that.

Talk us through your stroke

I like to stand square to the putt, but that isn’t a firm rule. Jack Nick­laus, for ex­am­ple, stood open (left foot drawn back) and tilted his head to look towards the hole. I prac­tise with a chalk line or a piece of string to train my eyes to look right down the line. That’s so im­por­tant when it comes to start­ing the ball on the track I want.

How do you hold the put­ter?

I like the shaft to run through the life­line of both hands. I want my palms fac­ing each other, with my thumbs side by side. That keeps the put­ter in line with my fore­arms and also en­cour­ages a proper arc in the stroke. I like to grip ev­ery club pretty lightly, as if you are gen­tly hold­ing a small bird, and the put­ter is no ex­cep­tion. I have no prob­lem with a lit­tle wrist ac­tion in my stroke, ei­ther, es­pe­cially on longer putts. To me, that helps with flu­id­ity and re­moves any ten­dency to be too ‘stiff’. I also find it makes dis­tance judg­ment eas­ier.

Do you ad­vo­cate ‘straight back, straight through’?

No. I like my stroke to be on a nat­u­ral arc – a bit like Ben Cren­shaw – on both sides of the ball. It’s only a slight ro­ta­tion of the put­ter on short putts, but for me that’s the best way to keep the face square to the arc of the stroke. With ball po­si­tion, I like it al­most di­rectly un­der my eyes, or a lit­tle out­side.

What drills do you use?

I pick a spot maybe six inches in front of the ball and try to ‘hit’ that ev­ery time. It’s great train­ing and a great way to line up cor­rectly. If I’m us­ing a chalk line, I vi­su­alise it ex­tend­ing all way to the back of the hole. I’m def­i­nitely a ‘hit the back of the hole’ guy. I read my putts on the low side so that I can be more ag­gres­sive.


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