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Monday, 25 January 2016

Driving an Imaginary Tack

As with every other shot in golf, in putting, it's the strike that counts.  Needless to say, this past week in Abu Dhabi, Rickie Fowler putted very well.  Rory McIlroy, who finished two shots back, did not.

What was interesting were the regular camera views that showed the difference between Fowler striking his putts and Rory striking his.  Rickie's putts were struck right in the centre of the back of the ball, and right in the centre of the sweet spot on the putter face.  Rory, on the other hand, seemed to be catching the ball a bit on the upswing and with the bottom edge of his putter.  Whether this was his intent, we do not know, but the number of makeable putts Rory missed certainly suggested that this manner of striking his putts was not producing optimum results.

As usual, I refer to Bobby Jones on the subject of the importance of the strike when it comes to putting.  In his book, Bobby Jones on Golf, under the subject heading Looking at the Ball, Bobby wrote:

  "Walter Travis, probably the greatest putter the game has ever seen, always said he visualized the putting stroke as an attempt to drive an imaginary tack into the back of the ball.  I tried this conception and long ago found it to be a valuable aid in putting-- to keep in mind the exact line upon which the ball should be started toward the hole.  It is all very well to select a point between the ball and hole over which the ball must pass; but it is impossible to keep such a point in view, and difficult to keep its location in mind while actually making the stroke.  But having selected the spot and allowed the eye to follow the line back to the ball, it is not at all difficult to imagine the line continued through the ball until it emerges at a point on its back side.  This is where the tack should be driven--a splendid way of simplifying the operation so that the player can give his entire attention to the making of the stroke...
  The expert player senses through his hands the location and alignment of the face of the club throughout his entire swing.  Before he starts the club back, he has formed through his eye a mental picture of the way he wants to cause the face of his club to make contact with the ball.  Naturally then, unless something disturbs him, he is going to look at the thing he intends to hit, and at the point where he intends to strike it.  He would be no more likely to look at the front of the ball than he would to look at his thumb if he were hammering a nail.
  For the average golfer, it will probably be helpful, in putting and in playing short approaches, to follow the suggestion of Walter Travis and to pick out a spot on the back of the ball into which to drive the imaginary tack."

Whether Rickie was picturing an imaginary tack or not, it was quite clear that, were there a tack there, in the middle of the back of the ball, directly on the line he intended to start the putt, he would have driven it straight home, time and again--Rory, not so much.