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Wednesday, 2 March 2016

It's All on the Greens

One of the best known quotes in golf is attributed to Bobby Locke, who apparently first coined the phrase "you drive for show, and putt for dough."  In the end, it always comes down to the putter.  Many say Bobby Locke was an absolute putting genuis--perhaps the best ever.  I can't really comment on that, never having seen him play.  But he certainly understood the importance of making putts, as does every great player.

The two best putters I've ever seen have to be Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.  Both of them had the ability to bear down and make putts when they most needed to.  It's no coincidence that both are also the guys who've won the most Majors.  I must say, Tiger had to have been the best putter I've ever seen from six feet and in when he was at the top of his game.  He was absolutely bullet-proof from six feet in his prime.

Raymond Floyd believed the most important shot in golf was the six foot putt, and I think he's absolutely right about that.  Dave Pelz conducted studies and found that the pros, on average, made fifty percent of their putts from six feet.  That might have been true; but we can also be certain the contenders every Sunday are making more than fifty percent of their six footers that week.  When he surveyed the pros, he found that Jack Nicklaus was one of the very few who accurately guessed what the average was.  Most pros thought they holed a higher percentage of them.  Most amateurs also greatly over-estimate their ability to hole shorter putts; or at least think they should make more six footers than they do.  This often negatively affects their attitude.  I know I have been that way.

Perhaps it would be good for all of us to remember what Walter Hagen, another great putter, said about missing short ones.  He said: "There is no tragedy in missing a putt, no matter how short.  All have erred in this respect."  The fact is we're all going to miss some short ones, and sometimes it won't even be our fault.  It just happens.  It's part of the game.  And, while that is true, Tiger surely missed fewer short ones than anyone I've ever seen; at least prior to 2008 he did.

Gene Sarazen said: "In golf, the first thing that leaves you is your putting."  But there are lots of old timers who can still putt lights out. I just wish I was one of them.  There is nothing better than making putts; and the truth of the matter is you can practise hitting balls and become a great ball striker, but if you can't putt, you're going to be losing to guys you think you should beat.

As Tony Lema said: "You don't necessarily have to be a good golfer to be a good putter, but you have to be a good putter to be a good golfer."  So, I guess I just need to work on my attitude towards putting.  I need to be more accepting of the fact that I'm going to miss my share of short ones, and not get as discouraged as I have been inclined to do on those days when I miss more than my fair share.  I need also to relish the opportunity to try to make putts, rather than seeing putts as an opportunity to miss.  I'm planning on practising my short putting much harder this year, and asking my playing partners not be as generous with the gimmees.  I need to learn to enjoy the challenge of trying to make a three footer, instead of secretly hoping someone will say, "it's good."  They're never good when the money is on the line. 

They say Ben Hogan was a terrific putter who became resentful in later years of the importance of putting.  He apparently ended up playing games where putting was eliminated in favour of who got their approaches closest to the pin.  He was quoted as saying: "There is no similarity between golf and putting; they are two different games-- one played in the air, and the other on the ground."  Oh, but were that only the case.  The fact is--whether we like it or not--putting is a huge part of the game of golf.

Tom Weiskopf pretty much summed it up when he said: "Make what you want of it, but it's all on the greens--and half of that's in your head."  Ain't that just the truth.