Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week Kevin laments how I.K. Kim** inexplicably missed a one-foot par putt on the 18th hole that would have won the Kraft Nabisco Championship on Sunday at Mission Hills (see video below). It would have been her first major victory. She lost in a playoff to Sun Young Yoo, who sank an 18-footer for birdie on the first extra hole. Every golfer can relate to the pressure of having to make a short putt, even one that's only 12 inches long. We've all been there. The important thing for Kim is to figure out a way to put it behind her. Clearly, she has immense talent, and because of her attitude and the way she handled herself *(see second video at the end of this post)**, I predict she'll win tournaments in the future. Here, Kevin gives you five keys to making the short ones under pressure.
__By Kevin Hinton
Tour players spend a lot of time practicing their pre-shot routines for exact situations like this. Some even time their routines with a stopwatch and practice maintaining that timing. While the time they spend analyzing a particular shot may vary, when they actually "walk" into the ball, it takes about the same amount of time for them to execute the shot. Average golfers tend to (1) not have a routine at all, or (2) change the timing of it depending on the importance of the situation. People often speed up or slow down considerably when encountering a crucial shot...most slow down. Having said this...I.K. Kim seemed to do everything right, she just missed.
2. The "Anti-Routine" Method
While sticking with your routine is certainly the first course of action, I'd suggest on short putts in crucial situations, some people just get too nervous and can't execute. If you're one of those golfers, try the "Anti-Routine" method. Next time you have a tap-in or short putt that matters, try stepping right up to the putt and casually knocking it in before you have time to think. Think of all the times you've made putts that didn't matter by quickly using one hand, scraping it back to the hole, or taking an odd stance trying to avoid someone's line. It often seems like we never miss this way. Maybe even try something extreme like using a different grip or talking out loud as you tap it in....these are all mental fixes to trick your brain. If you are taking a lackadaisical approach, maybe you'll relax and forget about the putt's importance. The more you struggle with these short putts, the more extreme your solution will likely have to be. For example, Johnny Miller often said he looked at the hole while he putted; others claim to shut their eyes just before taking the putter back; others advocate looking at the grip of the putter as you make your stroke. Experiment to see what works for you.
3. Pure Repetition
Golfers rarely practice putts under three feet because by nature they are easy...that is of course until the brain kicks in. Do the "100 ball drill" at least a few times a season. Randomly place balls of varying distances under three feet, ranging from tap-ins to three-footers. Do the drills in groups of 10. You'll notice by the end of the drill, you likely have barely missed. Then, actually count out 100 balls and subtract the few that you might have missed. Put them in two piles and let that sink in for a while. The mental image should register that the chances of missing one of these putts is statistically quite low. Next time you have a short putt that matters, picture this image, Remind yourself how silly it is to get nervous over a putt that you can make in your sleep, Then step up and knock it in.
This is a quote from the movie "The Patriot" in reference to shooting a gun accurately. I love it for golf. The idea is, big targets lead to big misses, while
From more or a technique side, try to have the image of your stroke swinging as a perfect pendulum. Keep your stroke even on both sides of the ball. No doubt, tour players' strokes are not exactly like this, but the image can certainly help the average golfer. I often see people miss short putts when their backstrokes and through strokes vary in size greatly. Some make excessively long backstrokes, and are then forced to decelerate into impact. Others make hardly any backstroke, then violently accelerate the putter through impact. By trying to have a consistent ratio and rhythm, you'll likely make a lot more than you miss.