Lining Up a Putt: Conclusion (Lesson 2, Part 6)

Tom Watson lines up a putt at the British Open

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This concludes our discussion about lining up a putt.  Let us summarize:

What to remember

·  Small misalignments at the putter head make for big misses

·  Green speed and slope magnify the importance of good alignment

·  The human eye is more accurate than any mechanical method; the human eye coordinated with the body is a very powerful tool

·  Know your dominant eye

·  Long putts are easier to mis-read than short putts

What to do

Adopt a consistent method of aligning your putts, follow it on every putt, and seek to minimize the length of your misses. A good rule of thumb is that, on almost any length putt, you should leave the ball within a foot of the hole if you don’t sink it.

Sports announcers

Announcers Are Paid to Create A Stir.

I love ESPN’s Lee Corso.  “Not so fast my friend.”  Affable, self-effacing, funny, knows his stuff.

You don’t need fancy clubs and a great course to enjoy 18 holes with a foursome.

I am going to digress.  What?  You just started.  Yep.  A high-school friend is an editor at the Wall Street Journal for the news pages.  He was a long-time reporter and President of the Harvard Crimson in college. No fool he.  We were talking at lunch in Washington DC several years ago.  The subject likely was the markets generally.  He was discussing a story he and a colleague were working on.  During the discussion, he candidly said, “look, our job is not just to report but to sell newspapers and that means publishing sensational stories.”  He may have said, but I don’t want to assert it, “our job is to sensationalize.”  As I remember it, he said something very very very close to our job is to be a gossip column for the Wall Street crowd, without them realizing it.  True story.  “No news is good news.”  Or perhaps good news won’t sell newspapers.

Lee Corso is an exemplary announcer.  “Not so fast my friend.”  Announcers are not paid to be exemplary, but to attract listeners.  So too with the reporters at the Wall Street Journal.  Wall Street types just don’t want to think of themselves that way.

Which brings me to Johnny Miller.  And why he continues to be paid to be golf’s curmudgeon.  He’s not paid to analyze.  He’s paid to be a curmudgeon, make no mistake about it.  NBC doesn’t want him to tone it down.  They pay him to be who he apparently is.

Johnny Miller, you don’t understand what you are talking about, said Tiger Woods once (or roughly so at a clinic).  Why?  When you say “that wasn’t a very good putt” with a judgmental certitude that suggests you know more than you do, I guarantee it that you do not understand all the has gone before under this section.

The Swilken Burn

You just don’t realize how what is a very well executed, stroked, aligned, and read putt, can, because of probably imperctible misalignment lead to what seems to be a big miss.  Because if you did understand it, you wouldn’t be making such repeatedly foolhardy statements on television.  And this is why the best golfers in the world get mad.  They don’t know why Johnny Miller makes them mad; they really think it is because he is too critical, too judgmental; when in fact he’s simply arrogant and ignorant, as a wise, old friend says.  Arrogant and ignorant.  Which is why we are here in part.  To educate ourselves, so we can know when a Johnny Miller is being both arrogant and ignorant.

Because mistaken criticisms can lead golfers to change when no change is called for.  Woe betide the golfer who does not realize his own greatness, for he will forever be searching for a better game when it is not his game at all that is the issue, but his understanding of his game.

A Great Putter

When the US Open was last held at Pinehurst No. 2, John Daly had some trouble with the greens.  The greens often slope steeply away at the edges.  Daly finally got frustrated on his way to an 8 or 10 on a hole and decided to create a made-for-television-moment – doing something angry I can’t quite recall.

Do I want to play this hole or sit down under the tree and watch life go by?

His ball had kept coming back at him one too many times.  Why do I mention this story?  Because years later, I saw John Daly putt.  John Daly is an extremely talented putter.  I was shocked.  The inference I draw:  not

that John Daly was the crazy golfer people like to portray.  Most of us would have picked up the ball, got in a cart, and drove to the clubhouse for a couple of drinks before Daly got there for his.  Rather John Daly was a great putter having trouble with extraordinarily difficult greens.  The moral equivalent of pot bunkers on links courses in Scotland or 4 inch rough as the second cut in a US Open.

Daly, as television presented him, was not crazy — he was decidedly sane. Good putting is hard. Some greens require a great deal of thought and a lot of practice beforehand. Very good putting is very hard. Woe betide the golfer who thinks having 3 feet left to two-putt is good putting. That’s a golfer who has 36 putts a round, and it is hard to play good golf without fewer than 31 putts a round. It is impossible to play excellent golf without fewer than 31 putts a round. It starts with finding a good line on your putts.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Line up your putts.  Do so as best you can.  See [1].  Know that there are too many variables to account for and so you will miss some you should make and make some you should miss, and all the while have a good day, for the worst day on the golf course is better than the best day just about anywhere else.  And play a lot of golf with your friends.

Isaac Newton

I. Newton

References:

[1]

I believe in intuition and inspiration. … At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. When the eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition, I was not in the least surprised. In fact I would have been astonished had it turned out otherwise. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.

  • Cosmic Religion : With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931) by Albert Einstein, p. 97; also in Transformation : Arts, Communication, Environment (1950) by Harry Holtzman, p. 138. This may be an edited version of some nearly identical quotes from the 1929 Viereck interview below.
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