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Make More Putts Under Pressure!

In spectacular fashion, last  week’s President’s Cup came down to the wire. It appeared that India’s Anirban Lahiri needed to hammer home only a short birdie putt for the Internationals to claim victory. Instead Lahiri’s ball hit the right side of the cup and missed. Lahiri was in shock and the International’s chance at victory was gone. In the end, it turns out making the putt only would have secured a tie, however, the missed opportunity will remain a clutch failure for fans to remember..

Few people will experience what it’s like to compete under such pressure. We all, however, have moments when faced with seemingly simple putts that can make you sweat. Whether you’re a top professional or trying to win the handicap flight of your club championship, here are a few tips to help you make more putts when it counts.

FOCUS ON FACE

When making a short putt, accuracy is key. To start your putt on the proper line, you need to be focused on the alignment of the putter face as you impact the ball. Although swing path is also a component of a solid stroke, your ball will start primarily in the direction the face. To practice, find a straight putt. Lay a yard stick down, with the end of the stick up against the hole. Put a ball on top of the stick near the farthest end from the cup. Roll putts down the stick and into the hole. To move the ball on target, you need to keep the face perpendicular to the stick through the strike and into the finish. Check the bottom edge of your putter against the measuring lines on the stick. Adjust as necessary until you can easily finish with the putter face on target.

When back handing a putt, you simply don’t care, which can actually be a good thing.

TINY YOUR TARGET

In short putting, focus is paramount. Instead of setting your sights on the entire hole, pick a tiny spot on the back of the cup to aim for. To develop this skill, try pushing a tee into the back of the cup. The tee will be just beneath the putting surface with the top of the tee looking towards the opposite side of the hole. As you putt, imagine the tee is the head of a nail. Your goal is to roll the ball into the cup, striking the nail on the head. This combination of shrinking your focus, while putting more attitude into the pace is a great strategy for short putting.

FIND YOUR TRIGGER

When the heat is on, it’s tough to not stand over the ball too long. The longer you stand there, the more tense you become leading to a shaky stroke. To get your stroke started on time and in rhythm try incorporating the use of a “trigger” in your routine. The trigger is there to signal the moment when it’s time to go, helping you execute under pressure. After making your final practice stroke, set your putter head behind the ball. Raise your back thumb (right thumb for right handed player) just off the putter grip. Look back to the hole and focus in on your spot. Once you’re ready, move your focus back to the ball. Trigger your stroke by placing your thumb back down on the grip. Immediately, swing the putter head, back and then through. If you do this routinely, you’ll feel a beat or cadence associated with each of the three movements. I like to count 1 (Thumb Down) 2 (Back Stroke) and 3 (Follow Through). In addition to helping create a smooth stroke, focusing on the “movements” occupies your mind reducing the chance of  being fixated on the prospect of possibly missing.

ACT AS IF

Anyone who has missed a putt has surely reached beyond the hole and back handed the ball into the cup. Sometimes it’s surprising how easily this action takes place. We often ask, “Why do I always make these, yet I can’t make a simple three footer with my normal stroke?” Some of it could be attitude.

When back handing a putt, you simply don’t care, which can actually be a good thing. The next time you’re faced with a short putt, play a mind game called “Acting As If.” This is where you become nonchalant and act as if success is a forgone conclusion. By relieving yourself of the pressure, you’ll relax and make a better stroke.

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