The Loop

Putting Stats

Reader Anthony Zawadski has a somewhat belated comment about an "Innovators" article in the April issue. Zawadski takes issue with Mark Sweeney's conclusion that Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk have stronger bogey putting percentages than birdie putting percentages because they bear down more when faced with the possibilty of making double.

I think the improved bogey putting percentage is due to the fact that these putts are, on average, easier.

Or, says Anthony,

Consider the bogey putt [as] the second putt. The player has an opportunity to get a good read off the first putt.

I tend to agree with you, Anthony. But I think there are two other factors at work here, one that Sweeney is referring to--pride and the desire to avoid the embarrassment of a double-bogey--and a second he does not mention: pure athleticism. There's a quote in our My Shot with putting craftsman and guru Scotty Cameron that applies here:

There's athleticism in putting. There's touch and feel, of course, but where it comes into play is in the ability to adapt. Tiger came to the studio one day. He wasn't happy with his putting. He found his shoulders were aligned a little left of the target, which caused him to take his putter back outside the line or with the face open and then steer it through impact. He couldn't release the putter, or he'd pull the putt to the left. He squared up his shoulders, which is a big adjustment to make. Tiger's first putt after the change missed. The rest were perfect. One putt was all it took for Tiger to adapt to a huge change in his technique. He might be the best athlete I've ever worked with, and I've worked with a lot.

That ability to adjust, after even a single missed putt, is potent. For more on the tour pros' putting abilities see the article on putting masters Dr. Jim Suttie and Christian Marquardt in our July issue. Besides demonstrating that the pros putting strokes are both more effiient and repetitive, Suttie and Marquardt point out that the best tour putters tend to be the most "trusting."

"A putting stroke is like a signature," says Marquardt, who has also done extensive research on writer's cramp. "Much like putting, handwriting is 90 percent rhythm. If you try deliberately to write your signature accurately, you can't do it. The mind interferes. We do best when we trust our instincts."

To your question, Anthony, could it be that they are just a bit more trusting on the putts for bogey and par than they are on those for birdie? A question of comfort zone, perhaps?

--Bob Carney