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October 23 2013

10:45 AM

On the Mark: Master breaking putts

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Webb Simpson won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open by six strokes.

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

Webb Simpson carried his good form from The President’s Cup to Las Vegas and he hit the jackpot. He returned rounds of 64-63-67-66 to equal a tournament total of 24-under and a “pretty comfortable” six stroke margin of victory. 

Such was his command performance that he only made four bogeys during the week. He had every element of his game on song and it was majestic to behold. What was all the more impressive to me was the manner in which he grinded all the way to the finish line. Simpson could very easily have coasted to a bogey five on the final hole and a five shot victory but instead he kept the “pedal to the metal” and knocked home a long curling right-to-left par putt. It was an exclamation point on an incredible week and that very shot highlighted two lessons I would like to share:

Success on breaking putts: Making your share of breaking putts is very much a function of committing to your line-read and then disregarding the hole. I know that may sound counter-intuitive given that you are trying to hole the putt but hear me out. I see too many golfers make a read, aim out to the necessary side of the hole and then as the swing they react to the hole and end up directing the stroke toward the hole instead of down the line required to hole the putt. 

A principle that my brother, Trevor, and I discussed and applied the year he won the Masters was the following. “Every putt is a straight putt – it just might not be straight toward the cup.” Apply this when you go out and practice. Make your read and then visualize a straight line along the path required to start the ball along the line you have read. Then as you make your stroke forget the hole and just strive to follow through with the putter-face releasing down your “straight” line instead of toward the hole.

Dealing with a large lead:  Not all of us have had the good fortune of playing with a lead, let alone a big lead. It certainly sounds like fun I know but rest assured it is more difficult than it may appear. The mind is so very powerful and it can play crazy tricks and one needs to be super vigilant to not succumb to “untruths.” One of the keys to maintaining a big lead is to continue to play as if the situation was different and you were only in the lead by one or two.  (Simpson personified this when he went for the par-5 16th green in two. The shot demanded a long iron second to a green fronted by a hazard.)

Further, if you make a mistake or two and you feel like things are beginning to slip away, be sure to remind yourself that you are playing well (you got yourself to the lead) and that your game is still there. 

Finally, just like Simpson showed when he made the long par bomb on the last hole, keep grinding until the very last shot is delivered. Too often people switch off their focus when they have a big lead. Do not make this error. Finish the job and apply some sage advice from the legendary Bob Jones.  Instead of worrying about your competition, compete against “Old Man Par” and strive to beat him. The results will then take care of themselves.

Good luck.

/mi

Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.

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