Adam Hadwin is one of the best putters on Tour this season, and it showed this weekend at the Valspar Championship.
Getty Images // Sam Greenwood
By David DeNunzio
Monday, March 13, 2017

Every Monday, we tap GOLF’s Top 100 Teachers in America for their insights on what went down between the ropes over the weekend on the major tours, and more importantly, how you can use this information to improve your own game. Call it trickle-down tips—learn from the best to play your best.

1. Canadian native Adam Hadwin drained a pair of lengthy putts on Saturday to forge a four-stroke 54-hole lead, and one from downtown Edmonton on No. 13 on Sunday to quiet runner-up Patrick Cantlay’s back-nine charge. Hadwin’s an elite putter (2nd in one-putt percentage this season), but three bombs to bag your first PGA Tour victory? Huge. What’s the secret to success from long range?

John Dunigan, White Manor C.C. Malvern, Pa. (@JohnDuniganGolf): I’ll stick my neck out: It’s foolish to think you’ll make anything over 40 feet. So don’t. The trick is to avoid three-putting, which is a very real possibility on lags (and far more possible than canning one). I see a lot of weekend players get lazy on long putts. Read the putt, choose your line and get into your setup in the same fashion you would for a 10-footer. Pay lags respect—and they’ll pay you back.

Brady Riggs, Woodley Lakes G.C., Van Nuys, Calif. (@BradyRiggs): It may sound obvious, but practice matters. Oh, you do practice? Well, considering that most practice putting greens feature holes spaced between 15 to 20 feet apart, you’re working on putts you’ll sink less than 15 percent of the time and almost never three-putt. Where’s the help in that? If you want to improve your skill from long range, putt a lot of long-range putts. There’s no law that says you have to roll your rock to the next closest pin on the practice green. Go edge to edge. Over time, you’ll groove a reliable long-range stroke.

Martin Chuck, Raven G.C., Phoenix, Ariz. (@tourstriker): Adam has spent a lot of time at The Raven Golf Club in Phoenix, where I run my academy. His coach, British Columbia-based Brett Saunders, often pops down, and not a single session ends without some work on the practice green. As Brady mentioned, practice pays. Focus on five things: 1) pace, 2) pace, 3) pace, 4) pace and 5) putterface. Kidding aside, select a stroke length you believe will create enough force to roll the ball to the hole, and then do whatever it takes to strike the putt in the center of the putterface. Most weekend players make contact out near the heel or toe, causing the putt to come up short, even if the stroke length they selected was perfect. You can’t perform—or learn—without sweet-spot contact.

2. Keeping the putting going, Bryson DeChambeau, who tied for 27th in Tampa, is onto at least his third different putting stroke this season. Bryson’s a future stud, but his putting rank has sagged all the way to 211th. We’ve all been there. What’s the quickest way to turn around a balky stroke?

Tony Ruggiero, C.C. of Mobile, Mobile, Ala. (@dewsweepergolf): Changing your entire stroke or going off on a tangent the way Bryson has is no way to fix a struggling putting game. When your putting goes south, take a look at your setup. Two of my more famous students, Smylie Kaufman and Lucas Glover, do this all the time. Using a mirror, make sure your aim, ball position and posture are correct, but do it in a way where you still feel comfortable over the ball. Attempting to be too perfect and too mechanical often robs you of feel. Without feel, you’ll be lucky to sink putts from three feet, let alone thirty.

Martin Chuck: Golf is a game of experimentation. Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan changed putters as often as they did underwear, so the story goes. Changing styles? That’s a slippery slope. Bryson’s intelligent, bursting with talent and widely known as a tinkerer, but he needs to stick with a stroke and go look for the answer in the pro shop. The same goes for you. Putting is mostly art—your stroke must be your own. The trick is finding the flatstick to match. Oh, and when you do find it, leave the price tag on it so it thinks you might take it back. Your putter works for you, not vice-versa.

John Dunigan: Bryson may be guilty of believing there’s a Holy Grail of putting strokes out there that will solve all of his problems. It doesn’t exist, nor does it have to. If every golfer—Bryson included—simply worked on starting the ball consistently on line, there wouldn’t be much need for putting instructors. Look at Jimmy Walker; he won a PGA Championship with a stroke you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. But it knew how to get the ball rolling in the right direction. Here’s a drill to get your started.

3. Patrick Cantlay had momentum on his side as he and Hadwin entered the Snake Pit at Innisbrook Sunday, but it was Cantlay who ultimately felt the bite. His failure to get up and down from a greenside bunker on the final hole was just one of six botched sand save attempts during the week. What went wrong?

Martin Chuck: I bet that Cantlay’s 1-for-6 sand-save percentage was the worst for any player who made the cut. Too bad—his ball-striking was off the charts. Keep in mind that despite the hype surrounding him coming out of UCLA, this was Patrick’s third PGA Tour event since the end of the 2014 season. Like all shots, bunker swings require reps, in practice and in competition. He’ll be fine. As for you, focus on the moves that will make a difference: wide stance, weight fixed on your lead foot, ball forward within a fractionally open stance, face square, and shaft leaning back toward your belt buckle at address (which provides additional loft without having to open the face). Train these keys and trust them.

Brady Riggs: I’m not familiar with Patrick’s bunker-swing technique, but I do know what’s to blame for most weekend players’ struggles from sand: a flat left wrist. If your left wrist is flat at impact as you’re trying to dislodge the ball from a bunker, the shot will go nowhere. Instead, allow your lead wrist to bend backwards (or cup) during your backswing, and remain bent through impact and all the way to the finish. Now, you’ve got bounce on your side—the club will hit the sand and slide through it like a hot knife through butter.

Tony Ruggiero: Cantlay came up short on 18—not enough oomph in that sand swing. It takes a big turn to provide enough energy to blast the ball out of the sand and all the way to the hole. So don’t just use your arms. As you do on full swings from the fairway, rotate all the way through the shot so that the majority of your weight ends up over your front foot. Now’s not the time to be shy.

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