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Keep it simple

Major champ says these 'simple basics' instantly improved his putting

October 25, 2023

In some ways golfers can learn the most about putting from a player like Collin Morikawa.

Putting never came naturally to Morikawa like ball striking did. Whereas from tee-to-green Morikawa knew what he was trying to do, and what tendencies he needed to combat when things got off, Morikawa admits in our Golf Digest interview (which you can watch here) that he felt lost on the greens. Even during the good times.

"I'd putt well and I didn't understand why. I'd putt poorly and I didn't understand why," he said.

When Collin decided to tackle the issues he was having on the greens, his task was in some ways simple: To get educated. He added a well-regarded putting coach, Stephen Sweeney, to his team, and got to work.

"For me it comes down to knowing what putting even is," he explains. "What are the basics?"

Morikawa has made great strides in his putting ever since. He collected a win at the Zozo Championship last week, and speaking to Golf Digest earlier this year, he explained what those “the simple basics” were, and what we can learn from them.

Once again, you can watch the full video right here.

1. "The basics of setup"

One of the things Morikawa came to understand was that his fade tendencies were showing up in his putting—with much worse results.

"With a full swing, if you start your ball left you can fade it back," Morikawa's putting coach Stephen Sweeney says. "If you start a putt left, you're missing left."

The root cause, Morikawa and Sweeney quickly realized, was that the two-time major champion’s shoulders were too far open. Generally speaking, that's what happens in putting strokes. Golfers’ arms follow their shoulders, which meant Morikawa was pulling putts left.

To ensure everything was moving in his intended direction, Morikawa developed a simple drill: He'd get in golf posture, drop his arms down so his palms were opposing each other, then take his setup. It squared his shoulders every time, which put his stroke on a better path.

"My shoulders were open, which felt square, but it meant my stroke was getting a little off," he said. "If you can at least get a good setup, it becomes so much easier getting the putter back to square.

2. "The basics of focus"

Another putting breakthrough for Morikawa was realizing that he was spending too much time and energy focusing internally. Whereas from tee-to-green, Morikawa would focus almost exclusively on the target—on where he wanted to go­—on the green, Morikawa locked into what he was trying to do. That was a mistake.

"The best players aren't thinking about hitting it exactly this hard. They're feeling it," he said.

To help with this, Morikawa decided to ditch practice strokes, and instead focused on three different points of the putt:

  • Where he wanted the ball to start
  • Where he wanted the ball to apex
  • Where he wanted the ball to enter the hole

The combination of these three things helped him read the putt more accurately, and rather than trying to focus on replicating the putting stroke, Morikawa plugged more into the target. And his putting was better for it.