10 Rules For Reading Greens
Continued (page 2 of 2)
06. Your partner must love the read. I've found an effective way of handling the times when I don't see the same line that Phil does. You might try it when your partner wants your opinion on a read. When Phil asks for my read, I'll make my case as convincingly as I can. But I make that argument only once. If Phil is not persuaded, I immediately back off and do all I can to give him confidence that his read is the correct one.
Don't be persistent and oversell your read, because if you wear your partner down to the point where he grudgingly goes along with you, he'll have only a half-hearted belief you're right. That sliver of doubt can lead to a bad stroke. But if you give your partner confidence that he has the right line, he'll usually make a decisive stroke, and then you've won half the battle. It's crucial that your partner love the read, even if you don't.
07. The best look: behind the hole. Before I began caddieing for Phil, I spent two years working for Larry Mize. Larry was and is a fantastic putter, and the best part of his putting was his green-reading. What I took from Larry was his habit of reading putts from behind the hole, looking up the line back toward the ball. Today that's the first read I make, and the most important one. It provides the most accurate perspective of all because you get a closer look at the last few feet of the ball's route to the hole. The area around the hole is critical: If there's any slope at all, the ball will react to it because it's rolling so slowly.
08. Be wary of plumb-bobbing. If you watch golf on TV, you'll notice that fewer players plumb-bob putts today than 20 years ago. Everybody used to do it, but the fact that the trend has quieted down tells me it's either too complicated to learn or doesn't work. I realize there are players who swear by it, but Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson never relied on plumb-bobbing, and who's putted better than they have? So if you don't plumb-bob already, don't start.
09. Know the local topography. During the Bob Hope, you'll hear a lot of remarks on how "everything breaks toward Indio." All that means is that Indio is the lowest part of the topography in the Palm Springs area, and that putts will pull slightly in that direction as if by a magnet. There are phenomena like that all over the country.
At the 1994 Las Vegas Invitational at TPC Summerlin, Phil shot a 63 the final day by taking into account that every putt breaks toward the Strip. When we play the Masters, we know that putts move toward the 12th green. When we play Riviera, it's a given that putts go toward No. 6. On mountain courses, balls tend to move away from the highest peak in the vicinity. On courses with no such landmarks, smaller features such as water hazards and creeks take over, because that's where water drains. If you ignore the local topography, you might be scratching your head all day long.
10. Respect the comebacker. There are occasions when you have to consider what will happen if you miss. At Pebble Beach this year, Phil's partner was his friend Charles Schwab. Playing the final hole of the third round, Phil was roughly in 50th place individually, but the Mickelson-Schwab team was doing great and on the verge of making the 25-team cut for the final day. By my calculation a birdie on the par-5 18th would get them in.
After a big drive, Phil slung a 5-iron out over the ocean and drew it back onto the green, about eight feet from the hole. Reading his putt for eagle, I noticed there were a huge number of spike marks and all kinds of footprints around the hole, which happens at Pebble late in the day. A 2½-footer in these conditions is no gimme, and I found myself saying something to Phil I had never said in all my years with him: "You have got to lag this close." Phil looked at me like I was from Mars, but after I whispered the situation he wasn't as aggressive as he might have been and knocked it up close for a tap-in birdie.
As it turned out, they needed the eagle to make the cut, and Phil has teased me a lot about my miscalculation. But my fear of a nasty comebacker was well-founded. If you're putting greens that are very fast or bumpy, you definitely want to be careful about being too aggressive.