WHO: Ian Poulter
WHAT: 80-foot putt from off the green to one inch for the winning par
WHEN: Final round of the Shark Shootout
WHERE: 451-yard par-4 18th hole at Tiburon Golf Club
Poulter, who teamed with Dustin Johnson to win the Shark Shootout, had a very difficult shot. His ball had to travel uphill over 30 feet of apron to the edge of the green, and from there it was downhill for about 50 feet to the hole. Also, there was a greenside lake not too far past the hole. Poulter could have tried a flop shot, but if he would have hit that even a little too hard his ball could have easily rolled into the lake.
Hitting a flop shop when the green rolls downhill to the flag is very risky. Players often think a flop will land softly and trickle down to the hole, but the reality is that most people can't land the ball as softly as they think they can and their balls usually run well past the flag. That's why putting from off the green is often the best shot. You'll be amazed at how much more control you have with a putter and how much more reliable the shot will be.
It takes only a little practice to get comfortable with a putter from off the green and to learn how hard to hit the ball. I like the shot even from grass that's thicker than an apron (or fringe). Just practice from different grasses and you'll see how simple and reliable the putter is from off the green.
There are a couple of keys to the shot:
1. Be willing to hit the ball with a long enough stroke. Too often, players take a short, jabby stroke.
2. Think of the apron as if it's Velcro. The apron will grab the ball more than grass on a green, but it's still grass and the ball will roll through it.
3. Pick out a spot on the green between you and the hole, and let that spot be your target. Look only at that spot when lining up the shot. Don't scan the general area you're aiming at. Staff at the University of Calgary have conducted extensive research proving that putters who have a so-called "quiet eye" and focus just on one spot, rather than gazing around before a putt, perform much better.
A.J. Bonar teaches at Morgan Run Club and Resort in Rancho Santa Fe. Calif.