It might reassure you to know that a PGA Tour player is only 50 per cent likely to make a putt of eight feet. So, that is the best players in the world, on the best greens, with Green Books and caddies and they are just as likely to miss it as make it. A lot of amateurs could really have a different attitude on the greens if they remember this.
A simpler way of looking at is to make sure you have a routine and, whatever it is, to do it on every single putt whether it is 2 or 42 feet. I see it as my sacred time, when my bag’s gone down I am then into the mode of analysing my putt and I’ll ask myself just two questions.
1 What is the putt going to do?
2 How hard am I going to hit it?
Every putt is designed to go in and there is always an answer to do that, it is possible to hole it. It’s a good idea to pace it out so you know how many feet it is – again, on tour, from 20 feet the make percentage is something like 1/5.
There are apps to keep a note of your putts in terms of Strokes Gained and you’ll then be able to have an idea of how you compare to others which might be better than you think. It’s good to keep a note of the type of putts that suit you; generally a right-hander will prosper on uphill, right-to-left putts, I’m actually the opposite as I just see it better when it’s downhill and I’m more of a dead-weight putter. If you’re more up tempo you might be better on slower greens or on uphill putts.
When it comes to short putts amateurs tend to underplay the value of them. We’re expected to make it and that’s dangerous and it seems like there’s more to lose rather than gain. Again, we need to heighten our concentration and visualise how it’s going to break into the hole. You have to do that to have more chance of holing it and, again, use the stats to help you – if you have the putter face aligned correctly on a six-foot straight putt then 90 per cent of the time it’s going to go in.
Finally, being ‘aggressive’ on putts is ridiculous. We see this in matchplay when your partner says to ‘give it a go’. Don’t hit it harder, hit it at the right pace.
There are a lot of variables on the greens and you have to be humble. Control what you can control and make sure that your ball finds the middle of the putter. It’s hard but you have to let go of the possibility of holing it - you can’t control the outcome, you have to control the process.