The BMW Championship this past Sunday was a lesson in clutch putting and nerves of steel. Patrick Cantlay rolled in putts when it counted, including sinking a 22-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole to force a playoff and then hitting an 18-footer on the sixth playoff hole (the 18th hole on the course) to win his fifth PGA Tour event.
If you’ve ever doubted how important putting is to your golf game, Cantlay demonstrated that having confidence in your putting can take you to the next level in your game. On a course that suited big hitters like DeChambeau, Cantlay couldn't miss with his putter. The stats are impressive. Cantlay gained 14.6 strokes with his putter over 72 holes of regulation, which was five more than DeChambeau and nearly eight more than anyone else in the field.
How can you become a clutch putter like Cantlay?
The short answer is practice, practice, practice. The key to effective putting practice is knowing what to focus on during your practice sessions.
According to Dave Pelz, founder of the Pelz Golf Institute and the Dave Pelz Scoring Game Golf Schools, “Aim is critical. You can’t dominate with your putter if you don’t know how to aim it correctly, or how much break to play. Nail these fundamentals first.” He suggests allocating at least one-third of your practice time to becoming the best putter you can be.
Mastering your putter stroke will greatly improve your confidence on the greens, but if you don't know where you’re aiming, then it doesn't matter how good your stroke is because the ball will not go into the hole as often as you want. Alignment is something that golfers often take for granted so they forget to check it during practice and play. Misalignment is the #1 reason for missed putts. A putt aimed 1° offline from 10' will miss the target by 2".
So how do you practice aiming accurately?
There are a number of practice drills that you can use to help you aim your putter. Here are a few popular ones that you may have seen or tried before:
- Put a line on your ball and set the ball up from behind with the line facing where you want to aim.
- Try to putt your ball through tees that are placed outside the heel and toe of your putter head.
- Erect a string over your ball, putter and line and practice putting along that line.
- Place a club or alignment rod along the heel of your putter head and practice hitting along the line.
- Place a mirror on the ground so that you can see your entire setup including your eyes, putter face, and shoulders. Most golfers will find that what feels like a square setup is actually far from it.
- Use a chalk line as a guide to ensure that the club face is square. The line will also be helpful as you align your body.
- Use a Bloodline putter, which has been designed specifically to help you immediately improve your accuracy by aligning from behind on every single putt, both in practice and in competition.
No matter which drill you do, it’s important to learn to calibrate your eyes by aligning from behind in practice and/or during competition. Viewing your target line will help teach you to have perfect aim on every putt and help you become a clutch putter.