July 01, 2008

Give Your Putts a Break

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The wind can push a putt a lot more than you think. Don't forget to allow for it.

Remember the putt Tiger Woods made to win Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill tournament this year? It was downhill, broke several feet from left to right and went in the side of the hole at about 9 o'clock. Tiger said it broke late and made a hard right turn at the end. It was a tough putt, for sure, but imagine if it had been windy!

At left: This strong right-to-left breeze (I kept the flag in to show you how windy it was) made this normally straight putt into a breaker of a few inches. My target line became the green line.

On the practice green, try some crosswind, uphill and downhill putts to feel how wind and speed influence the break. The faster the green, the more break you should play. Keep in mind that the speed of the practice green might not match the speed of the greens on the course. Jack Nicklaus was fooled for a while that way in his farewell Open at St. Andrews in 2005 that I was fortunate to share.


Most people underplay the break. My dad always thought I overplayed break as a kid, but I did better favoring the high side than leaving myself five-footers coming back on the low side. . . . Speaking of the greens, after you play a bunker shot, knock the sand off your shoes when you first step out of the bunker so you don't trail it onto the green. Rap your shoes with the club. It's good etiquette.

Watson is the golf professional emeritus at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Click here for more tips from Tom.