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April 8 2013

9:34 AM

Mental game: Get into the 'feel zone'

Laird took only 22 putts in his final round at TPC San Antonio (Dykes/Getty Images)

By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM

Martin Laird won the Valero Texas Open with his putter. He needed only 22 putts in the final round to tie the course record with a blistering 63 at the TPC San Antonio.

If you watched Laird during this week, you would notice a key component in his pre-putting routine. As he looked at the hole, he would simulate the movement of his stroke with his right hand. He is getting into what I call “the feel zone.”

You need to accomplish only two factors to make a putt-hit the correct line coupled with the correct speed. Of course, those two factors are very difficult to get matched up, but when you do, you will see yourself sinking one putt after another.

The problem with most amateurs is that they focus primarily on line. They first figure how the ball will break. Next, amateurs will take a couple of practice strokes with the desired technique. Then make their stroke so that the ball roles on the chosen line. 

Does this sound like your pre-putting routine?

The problem with your putting could be that you get stuck in the analytical mode. To putt your best, you will need to let go of being “too line oriented” and get into the feel zone like Martin Laird did this past week.

Here are 3 steps in your pre-putting routine to help you get into the feel zone:

Step 1. Pick up the ball and pretend to roll it. Although Martin Laird simulated the roll with his right hand, even better is to place the golf ball in your right hand and pretend to roll it toward the target. The weight of the ball helps you to gain better feel.

Step 2. Visualize the break. Visualize how the ball will break from the start position to when it enters the hole.  But don’t just visualize the arc of the line, also imagine the actual speed of the putt. The greater your visualization process, the better feel you will have.

Step 3. Take practice strokes for feel only. Your only goal of the practice stroke is to feel the speed so it can take the intended line. Make a few practice strokes until you gain that desired feel.

Let’s be honest, getting your ball close to the hole is not that difficult, however, sinking putts is one of the toughest parts of the game. It gets a little easier when you get into the feel zone.

Dr. Gregg Steinberg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf. He is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. Dr. Gregg is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has been the mental game coach for many PGA TOUR players.  You can see more about him at www.drgreggsteinberg.com, and you can e-mail him at mentalrules24@msn.com for any comments or questions about your mental game. 

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