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Keys to a Solid Putting Routine
14 Sep 2009
by Pat O'Brien

see also: Pat O'Brien: The Short Game Blog

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Once you are able to return to the putter to square without thought, you can fully take advantage of a solid pre-putt routine. The routine is highly individual. I would merely like to make some suggestions as to what it is should include.

Back in 2004 at The Byron Nelson, Zach Johnson and I developed the routine he still uses today. It is very gratifying to see it work under the most intense pressure situations. I am just as proud of helping him create this as I am helping him develop a stroke that repeats time and again.

When Zach is behind the ball, he blends his analytical or left brain with his creative, right brain. He figures out the break and aiming point while picturing the speed needed to match the two together. As soon as he walks in for his practice stokes, he is fully into his creative side. Through relaxation, he is able to quiet the voice in his head. He takes one practice stroke while looking down to get settled, then takes one while looking at the target to feel the stroke and see the ball go in. Then, he places the putter behind the ball, takes two quick looks and goes. There is no time for thought.

Zach’s routine matches his personality. He walks and talks fast, so there is no wasted time once he begins the process. The pace of his stroke even matches his personality. This is key.

If you are a bit more deliberate in everything you do, your routine and stroke should reflect that. If you prefer taking one practice stroke or three, it does not matter. It is your routine. The common elements of any routine, however, should include breathing/relaxing, seeing the ball roll in, feeling the stroke needed and reacting after your last look at the target.

Doing these things allow your instincts to take over, and you would be amazed at how good your instincts are when you truly get out of your own way.

Finally, good putting comes down to focusing on the process and not the outcome. You should never try to make a putt, only allow yourself to go through your routine and stay relaxed. The outcome takes care of itself.

When Tiger Woods made the putt at last year’s U.S. Open to force the playoff, he never once told himself he needed to make the putt. He merely reminded himself to put a good stroke on it, and if it went in, great. If it didn’t, so be it. That is taking the pressure off and one of the many reasons he is Tiger. We can all learn from that.

The best strokes are the ones you don’t remember.
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