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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Putting Won't Kill You

Putting can really mess with your mind. There are times when putting has just about driven me crazy. However, it may have driven me to distraction and even despair, but it hasn't killed me, or any of my playing partners. At least not yet.

I can vividly remember, after a stretch of particularly poor putting, I missed a two footer for eagle. I was absolutely livid, and took the ball and hit it like a baseball with my putter, the ball glancing off the cheek of my buddy who stood nearby. I could have killed him. It was one of my most embarrassing moments on the golf course, and I still shudder when I think about how close I came to seriously injuring, or even killing him in that moment of absolute madness. It was not my proudest moment, but it actually changed my golfing life. I will never let putting do that to me again. 

One of my golfing buddies is currently in the grip of the putting yips. It may not actually be the yips, but it's bad. He hits it great, at least until his putting woes cause him to totally lose it. If he didn't struggle on the greens, he'd be a solid four or five handicap the way he hits it. Lately, his putting is so bad it infects the rest of his game and he has trouble breaking 90. He's getting a bit long in the tooth, so he doesn't hit it as long as he once did, but he still hits it solid. However, give him a two footer to save his life and, better call the coroner, because he's gonna miss it. Then again, give me a two footer to save my life, and I'll probably miss it as well. 

That's really the problem with putting. If you've played good golf, and you've played long enough, you know just how easy it is to miss short putts. It's the short putts that really get to you, because you think you should make them all, and you don't. Everyone misses a short one now and again. That's golf. But my pal misses almost all of them when they count. He just can't shake them in to save his life. And yet, often times he'll sweep the putt back and knock it in after he's missed. 

Yesterday, he said to me, " I can make them when they don't count."

I replied, "That's just the point. You have to convince yourself that it just doesn't matter, that they don't count."

The attitude you seem to need to have when putting is that the outcome doesn't really matter. Naturally, this is difficult, because in reality it does matter. You don't want to miss short putts, but the more you want to make them, the harder they become. Give yourself a three footer to shoot your lowest round ever and see what happens. The reality is, all you can do is read the putt, pick your line, and make your best stroke. After that, it's in the lap of the golfing gods whether it goes in or not. You can hit a perfect putt and miss because of a spike mark, or a heel print, or some other imperfection in the green you couldn't even see. Greens are imperfect, so you can miss and it might not be your fault. It's just golf. Nobody ever said it would be fair, or easy.

However, if you can treat those two imposters, success and failure, just the same, and realize that neither outcome will cure or kill you, putting becomes easier. Putting may never be easy, but it will be easier if you can keep your perspective. You really can't will the ball into the hole, even though it seemed Jack Nicklaus could. You just have to make your best stroke and accept the outcome, knowing a miss won't kill you, unless of course you're playing a guy with no neck for more money than you can afford to pay if you lose.

Everybody misses a two footer at one time or another. But I've never heard of it killing anybody. These days, I try to just step up there, pick my line, try to make a good stroke, and let it be. I figure, if I do that, I've done my part. The rest is up to the golfing gods. I've missed more short putts than I care to remember, but it's never killed me, and so long as I never have to make one to save my life, I guess I'll be okay.