Watching the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, you get the impression that the secrets to good putting are (1) don’t think, and (2) use a long putter. It’s pretty hard to not notice that Adam Scott uses a sweeper and Keegan Bradley, Martin Laird, and Jason Day are all using belly putters. But the “don’t think” part is what entertains me.
On Friday the commentators were talking about Lee Westwood and his new, faster putting style. Apparently Westwood has been working on not taking so long over putts, presumably to avoid over thinking. After the appropriate set-up by the Golf Channel announcers (I can’t recall who they were on this hole) as Westwood read a putt, they asked viewers to notice how quickly Westwood would stroke the putt after he addressed the ball. Westwood stepped into the putt and went into suspended animation as we all waited breathlessly for that eventual strike of the ball. I was turning blue before he finally hit it. So much for his change to quick, unthinking putting. On the other hand, Westwood did putt pretty well during the tournament.
A lot of bad things can happen as you agonize over a putt. Not only will you tighten up as you stand over the ball, but you’ll begin to question your line, change your aim, be distracted by stray thoughts, notice the reflection of your putter on the ball, etc. By the time you putt you’ve lost all conviction and commitment to the shot. I know, because I’m an expert at second guessing and over thinking as I freeze over a putt. But I’m not sure that’s the same thing as not thinking.
The best putter I’ve ever played with is Gallon, AKA Four Quarts, a member of my regular group. He swears that only bad things can happen if you think, and he steps in and hits putts with lightning speed. You can never feel safe about winning a hole until he’s putted out, no matter how far from the hole he is.
But he thinks a lot, despite what he says. I’ve had many conversations with him on the green, and he analyzes greens and putts in detail. He has a carefully thought out line in mind, and is surprised when the break or speed doesn’t match his ideas. But he does all the thinking before he steps into the putt. He thinks while he develops the plan, but he executes quickly, without additional thought.
So it may be more a matter of commitment rather than not thinking. After all, if Dave Pelz can write a 394 page book about putting, there must be some thinking involved. Think out the putt and then execute without further delay. Don’t let second thoughts cloud your mind. Just like any other shot.
And those long putters? Talk to Robert Garrigus.