Derek Ernst's steady putting helped him to his first PGA TOUR win. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)
By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
The Wells Fargo Championship Strike Those Putts Crisply Quail Hollow Country Club is one of the true gems of golf in North America. Quail (as the membership affectionately dubs it) boasts a nice mix of left-to-right and right-to-left doglegs, a good blend of difficult and easy holes and some strategic undulations from tee to green. It rewards good play, but it will quickly penalize errant play, making Quail Hollow an excellent tournament venue and the Wells Fargo Championship a highly respected event on the PGA TOUR.
The classic layout – which will host the 2016 PGA Championship -- is scenic, undulating and always in immaculate shape. Sadly, due to a recent turf management wrangle, the course “lost” a number of greens. Those that survived were undoubtedly worse for the wear.
Thankfully many of the top players in attendance came out in support of the club and the greens. A good majority of them managed to make their fair share of putts on the uneven surfaces.
Week in and week out on the PGA TOUR, the final result is very much a function of the players’ performances on the greens. This week was much of the same, but due to the inconsistency of the surfaces, those players that were not striking putts cleanly and solidly were found wanting so much more. Therein lies our lesson that we can learn from the pros:
Strike your putts crisply: By definition, the interaction between the putter and the ball is no different to that of an iron or a metal-wood and the ball. Just as you need to strike an iron shot flush to go the given distance, you need to strike the putter flush to ensure that the ball performs correctly. Often times on super-fast greens, however, a player can slightly miss-hit (thin) a putt and it can still go in. That error can be disguised on perfect surfaces, but it will certainly not happen on slower, inconsistent greens.
Without fail I will address the quality of any golfer’s putter-on-ball contact before I consider any other putting stroke issues. All too often I encounter putting strokes that are structurally sound, but do not make consistently clean contact with the ball because the player has never considered where the base of the swing arc is and how that relates to the ball position.
A quick and very easy drill to help you figure out that very conundrum is to practice the “Quarter Drill.” Place a quarter on the ground and address it as if it was your golf ball. Go ahead and make your stroke striving to make contact with the quarter (enough to move it a few inches). If you miss the quarter then obviously your stroke has not “bottomed-out” correctly or the ball position is incorrectly located for your style of stroke. Either of those errors will largely result in poor quality of contact -- a sure-fire way to poor distance control (especially from long distance) or inconsistent putting on grainy or slow greens.
Adjust your putting posture and the release of your putting stroke until you can strike the quarter consistently. If you have done so and you still struggle to make consistent contact with the coin then vary its position (either forward or back) slightly. Then when you can consistently hit the coin, replace it with a golf ball, make the same stroke and watch how the ball reacts more positively to your putter. That is proof of sweet-spot contact -- the first port of call to good putting.
Just for the record, if your struggle with excess body or head movement during the putting stroke, then the “Quarter Drill” is also for you.
Practice this simple exercise whenever you are on the practice green. I guarantee you will see your putting improve.
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.
Phil Mickelson remained positive in unusual conditions, which helped his score. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM
The greens at the Quail Hollow Club were below par for a PGA TOUR event because the weather this spring in Charlotte, N.C., was cold and damp and clearly did not favor this type of grass. Putting on bumpy greens can beat you up mentally.
Or you could take a completely different approach, as Phil Mickelson did.
Mickelson declared his admiration for the course, even making the statement that Quail Hollow was one of his favorite courses on the globe. He thoroughly loves this venue.
I believe this thinking directly led to his great play at the Wells Fargo Championship. Mickelson putted beautifully, leading the field in strokes gained-putting and starting the tournament making 41 for 41 putts within 10 feet. While Mickelson did not win, he held the lead for most of the tournament and finished in a very respectable third place.
A declaration of love (or great admiration) for a course can help your play. Like Mickelson did, you are psyching yourself up to play well — regardless of condition or difficulty. Joy of a course can help expel any excessive feelings of anxiety. Ultimately, you are transforming adversity into an enjoyable challenge.
Let’s take the flip side. How many times have you been psyched out of a hole by telling yourself how much you dislike that particular hole? A dislike for a hole decreases the joy while increasing the stress you will feel, usually leading to a poorer score.
I know it is easy to find something wrong with every course you play, but I would highly recommend that you expand upon Mickelson’s lead. Talk yourself into enjoying every golf course that you play. Find something about the course that you really admire. Perhaps it’s the piece of property and its beauty, or its unique par 3s.
When you make every course your favorite, you will enjoy the course even more because you played so well.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. He is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has been the mental game coach for many PGA TOUR players. Dr. Gregg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf, and you can get your autographed copy at www.drgreggsteinberg.com.
The 17th hole at Quail Hollow will provide a stiff challenge for all four rounds. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Players got their wish last year when officials moved Quail Hollow’s 17th tee back to its original position, forsaking the place created specifically for the Wells Fargo Championship.
Not that No. 17 proved to be that much friendlier. Just more approachable.
The long par 3 still ranked as Quail Hollow’s sixth-toughest hole by the time Rickie Fowler won a three-man playoff for his first PGA TOUR victory. No. 17, in fact, gave up just one more birdie per round than a year earlier.
But the bogeys – and subsequent angst about an approach angle that didn’t fit the green – were down about 10 per round.
“Sometimes when you overdo it, it detracts from the greatness of the course,” Phil Mickelson said at last year’s conclusion.
Mickelson had suffered a particularly choppy affair with No. 17, most notably in 2005 when four passes resulted in three double bogeys and a 7-over-par aggregate. Each year from 2009-11, he was a combined 2 over at the hole.
Last year? Three pars and a birdie.
He wasn’t the only one, though. Many players grumbled that the pro tee – some 40 yards right of the member tees – created an angle that the green wasn’t meant to accommodate, especially from 217 yards away.
The green juts left into a pond, allowing water to guard on three sides. Hitting it short or left flirted dangerously with the water. Long wasn’t much better – the back half of the putting surface runs away from the tee.
The right fringe seemed to be a popular target, with the hope of getting up-and-down for par.
Bill Haas played Quail Hollow several times while growing up, and the tournament tee never was a consideration.
“[The member tee] was where I always played from, and I think that was the way the hole was designed,” he said. “I just think it helps receive a shot a little bit better than from the right.”
Now 25 yards shorter, the improved angle allows players to get away from playing defense.
“It makes it more of an exciting finish,” Rory McIlroy said, “because at least guys have got a chance to maybe make a birdie there coming in.”
No. 17 still has some bite, though, as McIlroy can attest. His bogey there in last year’s final round kept him from claiming a second Quail Hollow victory in three years. Fowler went through the week with four pars.