Drive for show, and putt for dough.
It’s trite but true. John Daly, Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson have shown without a doubt that it’s a significant advantage to hit the ball further than your competition, especially on a long golf course or one with reachable par-4s and (in two) par-5s.
But if you could choose between distance off the tee and accuracy on the green, you should choose putting skills. It’s the players who can roll in long birdie putts, make 5-foot par putts and get up-and-down from around the green who win tournaments.
Guess who takes the fewest putts on the PGA Tour, according to the tour’s official statistics? No, it’s not Rory McIlroy, though the world’s No. 1 player is high in most putting statistics.
But if you guessed Jordan Spieth, you’re right. The reigning Masters champion ranks as the tour’s best putter. The 21-year-old Spieth takes the fewest putts on tour, averaging only 27.5 per round. Perhaps more significant, Spieth makes almost 36 percent of his birdie putts, ranking fourth in that category, the most indicative of success if you look at the PGA Tour money list.
The best players, including McIlroy and Spieth, are also among the best around the green, whether blasting from the bunker or chipping from various situations. Here are some tips for chipping, pitching and putting to improve your scores:
· Don’t decelerate. Because you’re not trying to hit the ball far, there’s a tendency to slow up before making impact. That leads to skulled chips and major frustration. Remember: take a shorter backswing, but swing firmly through the ball.
· Hit down on the ball. The angle of the club will project the ball into the air. If you try to scoop the ball up, you’ll knock a low shot over the green or miss the ball.
· Hit the highest percentage shot. If you don’t have to carry a bunker or hillside, the simplest shot often is a low running shot with a medium iron.
· Analyze the green. Make sure you play the slopes and hit your shot with the intention of leaving yourself a short, preferably flat or uphill putt.
· Practice chips from different distances and with various clubs and trajectories. Be prepared for whatever chip shot you encounter.
· Hit behind the ball. Usually about an inch behind the ball. The harder the sand, the closer you hit behind the ball.
· Don’t swing too hard. Don’t decelerate, but follow through firmly. A hard swing into the sand, makes it much harder to control the shot.
· Open up your sand wedge – increase the angle and align the ball with your front foot.
· Plan your shot. If the ball is buried in the sand, you won’t get any backspin and your ball will roll after it hits the green. You need to hit closer to the ball to get backspin. Hit the sand further from the ball to get the ball to roll after it hits the putting surface. Play the break. If the green breaks to the right on your path to the hole, aim to the left.
· Don’t get too greedy. Get out of the bunker. Don’t take chances that could result in leaving the ball in the bunker.
· Look at your putt from both sides of the hole to get a clear idea of how your putt will break.
· Watch the putts of your playing partners to get a better grasp on the speed and break of your putt.
· Swing your putter like a pendulum with your big muscles. Keep your hands and wrist as “quiet” as possible.
· Hit every putt long enough to go in. If you putt is short, you have no chance to make it. According to Pelz, if you miss a putt it should be behind the hole, but no more than 17 inches, leaving you a tap-in.
· Miss putts on the “pro side,” above the hole. Putts can unexpectedly trickle down and fall into the cup. Once they fall below the hole, there’s no way they can trickle into the hole.