Practice your aim and stroke from at least three points around the hole

Lee Janzen shot 63–81 in the first two rounds of a tournament some years back—leading after Thursday yet failing to make the 36-hole cut. He rang me after his disastrous second round: “Pelzie, I’m hitting it great, but I can’t—and I mean absolutely not ever—make a putt if it breaks from left to right.”

He elaborated: “In the first round, most of my putts broke from right to left. I made everything. On Friday, every putt seemed to break from left to right, and I couldn’t make anything. Really, it’s been this way for a while now, and it’s driving me crazy!”

I invited Lee to Austin to work for a few days on his putting. He showed me conclusively how he could hole putts when they broke to the left, but never when they broke right. Even stranger was that my measurements proved that he was hitting putts solidly and applying the right speed almost every time. In fact, as I look back, I remember thinking that his stroke was one of the best I’d ever seen!

There was one problem, however. He tended to aim slightly right and under-read break on every putt. This meant that on left-breaking putts his right-bias aim caused his putts to start on a good line and find the hole a high percentage of the time. But on right-breaking putts, his right-bias aim made his under-read even worse, essentially reducing to zero his chance of holing even the most perfectly struck putt.

The solution was simple: Improve his aim and get him to read more break on curving putts. It worked—two weeks later Lee won his second U.S. Open.

If you’re having trouble with left-to-right-breaking putts, try what Janzen did. First, make sure your alignment and putter aim are accurate. You don’t need me—you can use a Putting Tutor (shown in the video above). Aids like this tell you in an instant where you’ve actually pointed the putterface, which is important because your eyes can sometimes fool you. Second, force yourself to play more break than you normally do (most golfers under-read more than they over-read). Third, roll your practice putts from three different break directions so you’ll groove the same stroke for all putts. Lastly, learn to transfer your practice stroke to the course. To get my students to do this, I tell them that when they’re out on the course playing a round, they should imagine that there’s a Putting Tutor on each green and that they’re simply practicing their putts. It’s an effective way to make sure you apply your good practice strokes when you’re actually playing.

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