Johnson Wagner
Golf Instruction

Make All Your 4-Footers

Take the guessing out of it

November 2013

I've always been a streaky putter. Still am. But where I've improved is, my good streaks last a lot longer, and I'm making the putts I feel like I'm supposed to make. From five feet and in on the PGA Tour this year, I've made 728 of 749 attempts, which puts me in the top 25. And from four feet, I'm at 94 percent. OK, that's not every four-footer, but you'd take that number, right?

The reason I'm sinking more short putts is that over the past year or so I've worked hard to make my setup and stroke consistent and reliable. Now when I stand over a short one, all I worry about is rolling the ball on the correct line. If you address the ball the same way every time and practice good mechanics until they become second nature, you'll soon find that no four-footer will get you shaking. Here's how I improved my make percentage.

Spot It


I used to unknowingly aim left of where I thought I was aiming. There's no doubt that your eyes can play tricks on you. Now I stand behind my ball and pick a spot six to 12 inches in front of it on the path I want it to roll on. I aim the putterface right at that spot and then step in and complete my setup. Lining up to a closer target helps take a lot of the uncertainty out of the process and frees up your stroke.
Rest Easy


Before you take the putter back, you've got to relax, but I don't mean hold the club loosely. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a death grip, my pressure is a 6 or 7. A firm grip allows me to control the putterhead and keep it square to the path. Another key to accuracy is to sole the putterhead consistently. I keep the heel of my putter off the ground until the last second and then gently lower it until it touches the green. That helps me set up perfectly every time.
Keep Still


Everyone says you should keep your head still on short putts. But I've found that if you try to lock in your eyes or your head, your stroke can become restricted. One of the best tips I ever got was to forget about my head and instead try to keep my rear end still. If that doesn't move, the core of the body stays in place. That gives me a stable base on every putt, which helps with consistency.
Stay Straight


Trying to swing the putterhead on an arcing path back and through makes sense for 25-footers, but on short ones, you can't think about that. Just try to move the putter straight back and straight through. The pace should be steady, too. If you change speeds, you risk opening or closing the face and missing the cup. And remember, if you think you're going to make it, you'll hit it with confidence.

Johnson Wagner is a three-time winner on the PGA Tour.

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