Earlier this month, I made my third appearance in the Masters. And while I missed the cut, every start at Augusta National is a learning experience.
Take 2020, for example. I was paired with eventual winner Dustin Johnson in the final Sunday group, and he gave me immense confidence to build on. Some people say that winning the Masters boils down to putting, but trust me: You have to be sharp with every part of your game there.
That said, putting is critical, not only at Augusta but anywhere you play. I placed 41st and 29th in Strokes Gained Putting my first two years on Tour, and it helped me nab a win and a rank inside the OWGR Top 20. I try not to complicate things: I work on four moves to get the job done. Follow suit and you’re almost guaranteed to shoot lower scores.
Keep reading below and let’s get started.
1. Go for a square setup
I get that putting is personal, and that it’s important to be comfortable at address. I’m also aware that many great putters throughout history have adopted highly personalized setups, but, unless you have tons of time on your hands to repeat a unique address, I recommend setting up square. It’s something you can practice with alignment rods. Simply get your shoulders, hips, knees, toe line and putterface to point in the same direction. It’s easy to do, and, once you have it, it’s very easy to repeat. For my money, a consistent setup you can replicate time and again is a huge confidence booster.
2. Keep your elbows in tight
Sloppy elbows can wreak havoc on your stroke and really disrupt your timing and pace. Do what I do: 1) Stand tall and tuck your elbows into your sides while making the final adjustments on your grip; 2) without moving anything else, bend from your hips and sole the putter on the ground behind the ball. “Connecting” your elbows to your body like this makes it much easier to keep your stroke on line when you begin your motion; it almost naturally squares you up so you know exactly where you’re aiming.
3. Start your stroke with your left shoulder
The quickest way to lose tempo and manipulate the putterhead off-line is to power the start of your stroke with your hands. Things just get too wobbly. I picture starting the putter back using the back of my left shoulder. (Sometimes I’ll practice with my hand on my shoulder to remind myself, as I’m demonstrating here.) This technique may sound a little different, but when you try it you’ll notice how it keeps everything super steady — from your body to the putterface—from start to finish.
4. Aim close, not far
Like most golfers, I see break relative to the hole, as in “This putt needs to start two inches outside-right of the cup.” The mistake most players make is that they then focus on and try to aim their putter toward a spot two inches outside the right. Easy to do from three feet, but not 30, where a lot of putts for recreational golfers originate. Instead, focus on a spot just two feet in front of you that’s on the line you’ve chosen, and then simply roll the ball over that point. If your speed is right, you’ll always be around the hole.
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