April 14th, 2019 will be remembered as one of the most important dates in golf history. Tiger Woods and Augusta National treated us to a scene that will be written about in books and put in golf photography collections next to Bobby Jones’ ticker tape parade in New York after his Grand Slam in 1930, Ben Hogan’s 1-iron on the 18th Hole at Merion in 1950, Palmer throwing his hat at Cherry Hills after winning the US Open a decade later, Seve thrusting his fist in the air at St Andrews in 1984, Payne Stewart grabbing Phil Mickelson by the face in 1999 at Pinehurst months before his tragic death, and so on. 22 years ago, Woods and his father embraced after a “win for the ages;” on Sunday, he got to embrace his own son and daughter, their first time seeing their dad as Masters Champion.
Tiger played incredible golf all week. He was an ounce better than the rest of the field and after 70 holes, he finally had control of the tournament and a two-shot lead. He was able to successfully draw the ball in Augusta National’s many dogleg lefts, a shot he’s struggled with since they’ve made the course longer and more difficult in the last two decades. Iron play was superb as usual. In case you didn’t know, Tiger is better at iron-play than any golfer has ever been at anything. But what will get lost in the fold of his post-Masters hysteria is how incredible his approach or lag putting was during his win and throughout his entire career.
Besides keeping the ball in play and getting rid of penalty shots, the fastest way to lower scores is to improve lag putting and chipping around the greens. Put simply, a scratch golfer will hit a 40 foot putt to gimme range while a 10 handicap would hit the same putt to 5 feet and make the next putt only half the time. Leaving yourself testers from 3-10 feet is not only a more difficult second putt but also is just plain stressful and energy draining. Tiger Woods was able to keep his momentum high for 72 holes because he rarely had extra stress on the greens.
So, how do we improve and shorten the length of our second putt? My coach at Sacramento State, David Sutherland, whom many of you know, once told me, “While the ball is rolling, as long as it’s above and short of the hole, it’s always going someplace good. But the instant it gets below or past the hole, it’s going someplace bad.” In other words, when the ball is going toward the hole, it’s a good thing while away from the hole is a bad thing.
The critical mistake most amateurs make is that they refuse to aim far enough away from the hole. They simply don’t play enough break. Instinctively, they know that they’re aren’t aimed high enough and so the putt is hit with too much speed because they know with proper pace, the putt would have no chance. By simply reading greens better and playing more break, golfers everywhere can save 4-5 strokes per round.
So, how can you practice your approach putting? On the “Practice” feature of our Golf Simulators, you can choose between uphill, downhill, left-to-right, and right-to-left breaking putts. I encourage all of you to spend time on each one and learn which line and speed combos leave yourself the shortest second putts. I’ll leave you with two secrets: 100 percent of golfers do not play enough break, and the line and speed combo that leaves the shortest second putt will also give you the best chance of making the first putt.
“Swing Into Spring” is still in full gear! As a reminder there are no tee time fees until June 21st! I look forward to seeing you all in The Clubhouse! Till then, keep it in the short grass.