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The Key to Long Putts

The one-tee drill is a good way to practice putting on-line and with the same tempo on both short and long putts. Punch a tee into a flat area of the practice green and set up about ten feet away. Make a few putts that just barely reach the tee. Then stroke a ball with more force, and another with more force still, until you’re really banging putts into the tee, almost knocking it over. If you can do that, you are releasing through the ball consistently and not pushing or pulling your putts at any speed.

Feel sometimes evaporates when the pres-sure is on, but here are two tips that may help. First, stick to your same routine. If you’ve been reading the green from just two angles, don’t all of a sudden read it from every angle. If you’ve been making two practice strokes, don’t suddenly make six. Some people do everything differently on a high-stakes putt and it kills them.

The second is to work extra hard at visualizing the putt. Decide what the putt is going to do and commit entirely to that vision. If you’re standing over the ball wondering how hard you need to hit it and whether you’re aimed correctly, you’re gone already. While making practice strokes, visualize the ball going down the line and into the hole. Breathe and relax while you’re doing all that. The deeper the visualization, the less room in your head for thoughts that create tension and pressure.

Visualization also works at another level: when you see yourself actually making the long putt and then your reaction afterward. See yourself putting the ball just past the hole, tapping in for your par and the victory. In other words, see the result.

If you ask me, this was why so many Ryder Cup players were holing putts in the singles in September. Match-play competitions like that are different from stroke-play events because each hole can be won. And players all have their little predetermined victory moves—like a fist pump—and they start using them even on the first hole if they win it. They begin to really feel what it’s like to win a hole—feel it in their bodies, not just in their minds. I had this feeling coming down the stretch in my British Open wins. I knew how those hometown crowds would react when I sank putts, and I wanted to make them react that way, so I felt connected to the holes in a very special way. This may not always be possible in rounds at your club, but it’s something to keep in mind: The more deeply you can connect to the putt, to anticipating the ball actually going into the hole and your reaction and the reaction of those around you, the more likely miracles are going to happen.

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