WHO: Mark Wilson
WHAT: 12-foot par putt
WHEN: Final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii
WHERE: 189-yard par 3 17th hole at Waialae Country Club
I’ve worked with Mark for about six years, and he’s always been a naturally good putter. That makes my job pretty easy because we don’t have to do too much technical work. Instead, we can just practice. Mark putts left-hand low because it helps to prevent him from breaking down or getting flippy-wristed during the stroke.
Much of our putting work involves having Mark learn to lag the ball into the hole rather than to jam it in. On the green, a ball that lags, or rolls slowly, as it approaches the hole is ideal because it gives the putter more of a chance to make the putt. A fast rolling ball must hit the center of the hole to go in because it’s likely to lip out if it hits the edge of the hole. However, a slow rolling ball can hit the front or the side of the hole and still go in. Mark is especially alert to using a soft touch with putts around the hole, which he did to perfection with the crucial 12-footer for par that he made at 17 in the final round of the Sony Open.
Here are three putting drills that I do with Mark that involve placing tees into the green behind and around the hole. Each drill teaches you to lag the ball at the hole rather than jam it.
1. With a breaking putt, I put two tees on the edge of the high side of the hole. (With a right-to-left putt, that would be the right side of the hole if you’re facing the hole.) The tees should be a few inches apart. The goal is to have the ball roll through the two tees and die into the hole. You are trying to make the putt using the side of the hole rather than the center of the hole
2. This is another drill for breaking, or curving, putts. With two tees, I place the tees two inches apart and two inches behind the hole on the high side of the hole relative to the curve of the green. (On a left-to-right breaking putt, this would be the left side of the hole.) Doing this also helps you learn to lag the ball into the hole, because the goal is to not have the ball hit the tees even if you miss the putt.
3. On an uphill putt, put a tee into the green on the back edge of the hole. The goal is to have your ball softly touch the tee and fall back into the hole.
GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jim Suttie teaches at The Club at TwinEagles in Naples, Fla.