I want to tell you a story about a round I played last week in Dallas. I was supposed to tee off at 1 p.m., but I left my home office late, so I had to drive 75 mph instead of my normal 65 to get to the course. On my way to the course, I received two phones calls. The first was from my secretary, who told me that a contract I’d been expecting wasn’t ready yet, which agitated me. The second was from my son, who told me that he had just gotten a speeding ticket, which made me even more agitated. As I pulled into the course parking lot, my wife called and started nagging me because she didn’t realize I was going to play. I only had 10 minutes to warm up, and I was fuming mad. My round started bogey, par, bogey.
What is the point of this story, and how does it relate to this week’s PGA Championship? Come Sunday afternoon, a player’s rhythm will be king, and guys trying to win their first major or their fifteenth major will have to maintain a consistent personal rhythm. That can be hard to do with all the distractions of normal day-to-day life, not to mention the pressure of major championship golf.
Both Brad Faxon and I have said many times that good rhythm can mask poor technique. Thus, the general rule to follow on the greens is that your stroke should always take the same amount of time to complete, regardless of the length of the putt.
I often work with players who claim they make an adequate amount of 4-foot putts but rarely make 12-footers. Think about your own game for a moment. Have you ever made all the short putts for par or bogey but not made any 12-footers for birdie or par? When I assess players with this complaint, in almost every case they have two different rhythms for these putts. How do golfers begin to putt with two different rhythms? Because you make four-footers and miss 12-footers, you instinctively put more and more pressure on the 12-footers. The more pressure you put on yourself, the more likely you are to disrupt your normal rhythm. So what can you do to control your rhythm?
Let’s go back to my story. I only had 10 minutes to prepare, and I should have focused all that time on getting into my personal rhythm. (I also discussed finding your personal rhythm in this blog post back in March.) I normally use a metronome to do this. I set it on my personal frequency and take a couple of driver swings beside the putting green, making sure my swing matches up with the tic-toc of the metronome. (If you don’t have a metronome, then simply count out loud to help calibrate your rhythm.) I also hit some putts of various distances and match my stroke to the tic-toc as well.
Remember that rhythm is susceptible to your environment and how you feel day-in and day-out. Finding a tool, whether it be a metronome or counting out loud, will help you calibrate your rhythm.