12 Sep Big Play: Stay rock solid on clutch putts like Hunter Mahan
Who: Hunter Mahan
What: 14-foot birdie putt
Where: 162-yard par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale
When: Final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open
Everybody on Tour hits a lot of solid shots, but the guy who wins is usually the guy who makes not only crucial putts, but also the most putts. Hunter Mahan won in Scottsdale, Ariz., because he made all of his crucial putts and a ton of others. From within 10 feet, Mahan was 65 of 67 for the week.
Mahan was so darn steady and still over the putts. His head didn’t move a bit and his eyes were eerily calm. He kept his eyes down over where the ball was well after impact. That’s the opposite of what I see in most amateurs when they putt. They get so nervous that all they think about is whether they’ll make it, and they forget about the only thing they should think about: how to execute the stroke. Because they’re worried about making the putt, people tend to shake and move their bodies a lot and lift up their heads to follow the ball, all of which usually makes them miss the putts.
Here’s a simple but effective way to practice staying rock-solid steady on pressure putts. Stand 15 feet from the hole and think only about executing the putt, not whether the ball goes into the hole. After impact, keep your eyes focused on the spot where the ball was sitting for a couple of seconds, until the ball is at least eight to 10 feet away. Be sure to take this practice regimen to the course and do the same thing while playing.
Eric Johnson is director of instruction at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa.