You can miss a short putt three ways. You can make a bad read, you can start it on the wrong line, or you can hit it the wrong speed. If you face a short putt after running the one before it past the hole, you should never miss it because of a misread. Still, many golfers do.
When you see that your first putt isn't going in, it's natural to get a little upset. Players look up or close their eyes or have some other reaction that takes their concentration from where it should be--on what the ball does as it rolls past the hole.
Smarter, calmer players pay close attention to the entire roll of the putt whether it goes in or not. If they roll it past the hole, they get a preview of the exact break the next putt will have, which is valuable information.
It's fine to get mad, but confine it to the walk between the green and the next tee. That will help your next shot, too.
THE TOUR'S MOST IMPORTANT STAT
While we're on the subject of putting, one statistic the PGA Tour keeps is an extremely accurate barometer of how well a player is performing. It's called three-putt avoidance. If you don't believe me, look at Luke Donald's statistics from 2011. For a stretch he went more than 500 holes without a three-putt, and he finished the year No. 1 in three-putt avoidance. He won twice on tour (and two more times in Europe) and moved to No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking. I don't think that's a coincidence. For the recreational player, reducing three-putts is one of the biggest factors--if not the biggest--in reaching a scoring goal. Even if you don't make more first putts, improving your speed control on the greens is the fastest way to take, I'd say, three shots off a double-digit handicap, or to break 80 or 70 for the first time if you're a low-handicap player. You'll thank me when you do.
Haney, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional, runs the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head.