Based on my play this year, with a win on the European Tour at the start of the season and five top-three finishes on the PGA Tour since April, I can see why you might think I've become a good putter overnight. When I shot 61 in the second round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August, including a 27 on the back nine, I had 11 consecutive one-putts. Five of those birdie putts were longer than 13 feet. So it's true that I'm rolling in a lot of putts I used to miss. But if you look at my statistics, I've actually putted well the last three years. It's not like I just flipped a switch. I've steadily improved since I changed my grip and tweaked my stroke. When you step back and look at it, the most important thing for becoming a good putter is feel. And right now, I'm feeling good. Here's how I got into that comfort zone.
READ + ROUTINE
I think everything you do before you hit a putt should be done quickly. When I read the break, I do it from behind the ball and sometimes from the lower side of the putt. But I don't like to look at it from the other side of the hole. That can put doubt in your mind about what the putt's going to do. Once I have the line, I walk in, set up and hit the putt without hesitation. I don't even take a practice stroke. I haven't counted, but the whole routine from setup to putt probably takes a total of 10 seconds. In golf, the more time you spend thinking, the less smooth you become. You get tight and start to second-guess yourself, so I try not to stand over the ball too long.
GRIP + STROKE
Three years ago, I went to the claw grip. I had gone through several changes, and I'd lost my feel. My right hand had become too dominant in the stroke and just didn't work as well as it used to. The claw grip takes the right hand out of the stroke for me. Now I make more of a left-arm motion, and I feel like I can swing the putter more consistently. The only problem with the claw is, because my right arm is farther from my body, my alignment can get a little off from time to time. That's why I practice with a normal grip, too, so I can lock my right elbow onto the side of my body. That helps remind me what good alignment feels like when I switch over to the claw.
FEEL + CONFIDENCE
I like to practice long putting, from 30 to 60 feet. I think this is where you develop feel. And when you get good at these long putts, it makes the medium-range putts feel makable. For me, I expect to make everything from inside 15 feet. I'm not going to make all of them, but this is where I've improved my putting the most. Don't worry about having the read wrong. That's going to happen every once in a while. Believe you've picked the right line. Then, if you can put a confident stroke on the ball and start it on that line, it's going to have a great chance to drop. That's what I've learned. I've gotten good at this routine, and it's made me a much better putter.