Yea, yea…it’s been like forever since I did one of these. Sue me.
We covered drivers and irons in previous editions of these all the way back in…fucking JUNE? Jesus tapdancing Christ, nevermind. Pile on, yo. Anyways, I actually have the wedge post written, but I’m all like “dude, that thing sucks, don’t let the people see it.” So I’m just gonna rewrite it later, but wanted to skip to puttin’ just ‘cuz.
I’m gonna get all philosophical on you for a second…can you say there’s a best putter ever? Yes. Yes you can. That man is Tiger Fucking Woods, and he’ll go Old Testament even on 16 on Sunday when he’s leading the tournament by 12 strokes, all because he promised himself he wasn’t going to get a bogey. I want you to go to 7:05 in the video above. You see that look in his eyes? The death glare? THAT is what Tiger Woods will always be to me, not some beaten down, half-a-man divorcee that looks like he’s taking a vicious dump every time he swings the club…
But I digress…
Watch that lil clip again and see the look in his eyes when he drills that putt. That, my friends, is what putting is all about. I could bore you to death with gibberish about straight back/straight through or styles of grips or fitting your putter to your stroke and all that, but it really doesn’t mean a cot damned thing, in the grand scheme of things. There are a million different methods for getting that ball int he hole, so figure out the way that works best for you, that you can repeat under pressure, with as few moving parts as possible.
We’ll take a look at some techniques that the best putters used, but really…putting’s an art, yo. You can use anything to putt from a $35 bargain bin or spaceship lookin’ Odyssey to a glorified butterknife or a classic work of art, but you can’t avoid practice. Buying a new putter isn’t going to sink more putts, so find something you like and wear out the sweet spot.
Putting is the strongest part of my game, but I can’t begin to put into words what I’m doing…well I could, but it’d be one long run-on sentence that’d make Proust blush (suck it Duffy). I use a traditional, overlap grip and, if I think of anything other than my line, it’s an old Faldo trick I heard where he imagines his thumbs tracking the target line…I count 1, start my swing, 2 end of my backswing and by 3, I’m done. There are millions of little tricks like that, but that really only works for me because I’ve drilled in my routine while insomnia-induced putting in front of the TV for like 2 hours a night…again, practice.
But there are things to learn from the greats, and we’ll look at who they are and what made them such great putters as we go along. You’ll see a variety of players from bombers like Jack and Tiger to short hitters like Billy Casper and Luke Donald and won’t see some all-time greats. Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino, two of the greatest ballstrikers ever to walk the planet, aren’t on here.
Tiger’s, in my opinion, the greatest putter of all time. He’d seemingly go seasons without 3-putting, and has made more clutch putts than anyone I can remember. There was the 2008 US Open, the putt above in the 2000 US Open (sure felt clutch), the 1999 PGA playoff where he stalked after it against Bob May, the President’s Cup and Kapalua slobberknocker against Ernie Els…there was a decade long period where if a putt mattered, it was just assumed Tiger would sink it. If you know the game, just think about how ludicrous that is.
Wanna putt like Tiger? Well, just hone textbook form, get balls the size of grapefruits and have the desire to rip the still-beating heart out of a cripple, and you might just get not even close.
Gentle Ben…hah, what a dumb nickname but sweet sassy could he putt the shit out of the ball. A lot of people consider him the greatest putter of all time, and while I don’t know enough to say one way or the other, there are two things you can take from Crenshaw that will definitely help, and twp things you might not want to go crazy with.
Ben putted with a very pronounced arc with a good bit of forward press. While your putting stroke will have some arc, even if you try straight back/straight thru, too much can make your stroke too reliant on timing, which can be disastrous on the roll, the path the ball takes and your confidence, so just be careful not to overdo it on the arc.
You might want a little forward press if it feels comfortable, and it does put a nice roll on the ball and keep your hands steady, but it’s not a great method for slow greens and can mess with your alignment if you take it too far. What you should copy from Crenshaw is his syrupy rhythm and the way the putter shaft forms a line with his forearms (left).
Here’s a cool video comparing Crenshaw with the Boss of the Moss, Loren Roberts.
For his career, Roberts had a putts per round average of 28.3 (compiled over 1,996 rounds). That’s sustained excellence over a long period of time, and if you watch the video, you’ll see another great example of syrupy rhythm. Rhythm (really getting sick of tying that word) is crucial for putting well…you can be quick and jabby like Brandt Snedeker and putt well or nice and slow, but you have to understand your natural tempo in order to be a consistently great putter. Experiment with putting quickly and slowwww and see where your rhythm is.
I’ve always been surprised that nobody’s tried to copy Jack’s style putting, as he was one of the greats and was phenomenal on fast greens. Yea, he looks a little cramped and bent over, and this style definitely isn’t practiced in any modern schools of putting thought, but look how little his hands move. Just a simple hinging back and pop with great touch.
But it’s hard to talk about Jack without talking course management and hitting greens in the right spots. There were few better at putting themselves in the correct position than Jack, and thanks to his prodigious distance and preferred high-fade, he was able to hit precision guided bombs and have a lot of birdie putts. He rarely left himself above the hole, and even then, was a great downhill putter with wonderful touch, and few in the history of the game were as good at reading breaks, drawing from experience and being able to block everything else out and focus. And everything I said about killer instinct regarding Tiger? Applies just the same to Jack…one of the few unquestioned alpha dogs of golf.
Much like Crenshaw, Stricker holds the putter so that it forms a straight line with his arms with absolutely perfect form. Setting up this way makes it soooo much easier with compounding effects on your entire putting stroke. It’s easier to see the line, get lined up to it, stay on plane and you won’t have to make any compensations with your hands, fucking up the loft and face angle, and making putting easier is what everyone should be trying to do. With the right setup, a consistently right setup, putting becomes point and click.
Stricker does do one unusual thing you don’t often see on Tour…he lifts the heel off the ground, whereas most players are TOE UP. Yea, that’s right…and why can’t I find pictures as easily as I normally can? This is ridiculous. I swear to God I’ve seen like five hundred thousand pics of Stricker’s putter with the heel up but I can’t find any of them? What the fuck Google?
Anyways, keeping the heel up helps him keep the putter as straight back/straight thru (SBST from here on out) as much as he can…Stricker’s a great putter because of how well he controls where the face is aimed, and just stays on that line as much as he can. He returns the putter to the exact loft it was at at address and it’s hard to argue with the results as he’s been arguably the best putter on Tour over the past five years.
I swear I don’t mean to start every section with “much like” but much like Nicklaus, Casper was a great putter large in part because of his great course management. He hit nothin’ but a big ol’ draw, was precise as all get-out and always put himself in the perfect spot.
That’s so much of the equation, I can’t stress it enough. Sure, you can have great natural touch, the perfect stroke, no superfluous hand movement and be able to read greens like a book, but if you’re constantly leaving yourself slick, downhill putts or sliding 10-footers for par, it doesn’t matter, you’re fucked. You’re better off with an uphill 8-foot putt for par than you are with a 3-foot putt you have to start outside of the cup and have the perfect speed to make. Casper wasn’t the flashiest golfer, but there aren’t any pictures on the scorecard.
There are a ton still to mention, so I’m just gonna blast thru a bunch…
Aaron Baddely and Geoff Ogilvy - two greats from down under.
Dave Stockton - very similar to Loren Roberts’ style who’s the hottest putting guru on Tour these days.
Nick Faldo - supreme technician with ice in his veins on clutch putts, Faldo’s trademark was always being in the right spots and the greens were no different.
Phil Mickelson - probably the worst short-putter of any all-timer, Phil’s on this list because when he gets hot, he makes EVERYTHING. Think back to his ass-kicking of Tiger at Pebble last year…he must’ve made a half dozen 20 footers on the hardest greens to putt on on Tour.
Brian Gay and Zach Johnson - modern short hitters on Tour always in the right spots. ZJ has an unusual technique with his hands setup behind the ball, while Gay is as traditional as it gets, but both are consistently on top of the strokes gained putting stats.
Luke Donald - the current gold standard, wait…
Brandt Snedeker - the current gold standard because AMERICA, FUCK YEA.
Sergio Garcia - just seeing if y’all are still paying attention.
Greg Super Nintendo Chalmers - oh, he’s a legit great putter, but I’d have kicked my ass if I didn’t make that reference.
So anyways, I’m sure there are some I’m forgetting, but this thing could seriously go on forever if I didn’t just end it. Listen, there are a million ways to putt…left hand low, traditional, you get the point. But you aint learnin’ how to putt fuckin’ around on the computer, HELL NO. Get your ass in front of the TV on some carpet, and roll a ball to a can of Cope until there’s a hole in the sweet spot of your putter and I guarantee, you’ll figure something out after about 1,500 hours of that shit. Then, go out on the course, look at every putt like you’re Tiger Motherfuckin’ Woods and drill everything.
You want one common ingredient between all these guys? Confidence. If you don’t make a confident stroke, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re not making a putt. Trust your line, trust your stroke, and make some fuckin’ putts yo.