You’ve had a win in each of the last two seasons. How confident are you in your game in 2018?
I’m playing well. My game’s been nice for a consistent amount of time. And all we can do is try to improve. It’s an improvement league. You try to get better every year—and that’s what we’ve been doing.
Do you set goals for yourself each year?
Absolutely. Goal number one every year is get to East Lake and have a chance to win a Tour Championship.
How about the majors? Last season, you were the 54-hole leader at the PGA Championship. You finished seventh after a double-bogey on 18. Looking back, how do you view the week?
I take it as a positive, because I had never been in contention in a major before, and that was another of my goals to start the year: to play better in the majors and give myself a chance to win. In the last one of the year, I gave myself a shot. I didn’t play great coming down the stretch, and JT [Justin Thomas] did. I tried to win on the last hole and it didn’t work out. That’s just how it goes. I will always go for the win.
GOLF’s July cover story focuses on getting the ball in the hole. For the last couple of seasons, you’ve been top 20 in strokes gained putting. What’s the key to rolling it consistently?
A lot of it has to do with speed. You gain a lot of strokes on the field when you don’t miss inside of five feet and you don’t three-putt. I’ve been a great lag putter throughout my career, and I’ve always been solid inside of six feet, so I think that’s where I beat people. That’s where I practice a lot: inside of six feet. And I hit a lot of long putts to get my speed dialed in.
Is there a certain mindset you need to be a good putter?
It’s weird. People ask me that all the time, and I don’t really know. It’s either gonna go in or it’s not. That’s my mindset. All I can do is control what I can control, and that’s pick my line, pick my speed and hit the best putt I can. You’ve gotta live with the results. Too many guys get caught up with the putts that don’t go in, instead of thinking about the ones that do. It’s real easy to forget the 20-footers you made and think about the seven-footers you missed, but without those 20-footers you wouldn’t have played well either.
I’ve heard some good putters say you have to putt like you don’t give a crap. Does that fit into what you’re saying?
Absolutely. All you can do is do the best you can; from there it’s up to the green and the ball. I’ve hit great putts that didn’t go in. I’ve hit terrible putts that did.
What’s the greatest putt you’ve ever hit?
The one on 18 at the Players a few years ago, that would have won the tournament for me. That was pretty special—and it didn’t go in. But I made a nice five- or six-footer to win at Colonial last year. That was one I’ll keep in the back of my mind.
How about a putt you wish you could have back?
The one last year in New Orleans [at the Zurich Classic]. I had about an eight-footer to win the tournament in a playoff, and I just hit a poor putt. I wish I had that one over, for sure.
Is there one putting tip you consistently give amateurs you play with in pro-ams?
Well, first of all, I never see amateurs go to the putting green during their warm-up. Every time I go to a pro-am, they’re all hitting drivers on the range. Nobody ever putts. Then they go on the course and three-putt. I go through a round where the amateur wraps up, and I say, “All right, you three-putted six times. If you’d have three-putted just two times you would have knocked four strokes off your score.” They say, “I didn’t think about that.” Standing there, I get “em to throw me a golf ball, and every time they throw it right to me. And I say, “That’s no different than putting it around a hole. It shouldn’t be that much more difficult just to get it somewhere near the hole.” If they two-putted every hole, they would be much better off. They kind of lose sight of that.
ONE THING I KNOW FOR SURE: They’re called majors for a reason.
They test every facet of your game, and if you’re off a little bit on any part it exposes you. Going in, you have to be feeling great. Any weaknesses, you better tune up early in the week because they’re the truest and hardest tests we face the whole year.