Golf, it’s just a game

Sehl: Learn to tune out interference

May 24, 2014 

Regardless of handicap, we can all make a 3-foot putt and we don’t have to have perfect form to do so.

Tiger Woods, Ben Crenshaw, Brad Faxon and Jack Nicklaus would be considered excellent putters because historically they have demonstrated they can make putts under pressure. Scott Hoch, Doug Sanders, Ed Sneed and Lee Westwood aren’t considered great putters because historically they have missed putts that would have given them Majors championships.

Performing well under pressure means they can tune out interference.

When you practice 3-foot putts, you should make more than you miss. PGA Tour statistics indicate that tour professionals make more than 90 percent of their putts from 3 feet or less. My educated guess is that the average 18 handicapper will make 60 percent .

Why did Sanders miss a putt of less than 3 feet to lose the British Open in 1970?

Why did you miss a 3-foot putt that would have won the club championship? Why did you miss a 3-foot putt that would have allowed you to break 90 for the first time? Interference!

Golf is, in many ways, 100 percent mental. After you have acquired the skill of making the 3-footer, only your mind can cause you to miss. Those with the yips will disagree in that the yips are muscle twitches that can cause a golfer to knock a 3-foot putt 10 feet past the hole. Even then there is a finality or consequence to the stroke. It goes into a cup four and-a-quarter inches in diameter or it doesn’t.

There is no reward for being close.

Experts tell us that confidence is the No. 1 trait of a good putter. That’s a bit like saying pretty women are pretty because they are pretty.

Back to our question: why did you miss that 3-foot putt that was straight up hill? Possible answers: You didn’t take your time. You didn’t care. You cared too much. You suck at putting. Someone hollered. Your opponents rattled his/her clubs. You were afraid to win. You always lose.

None of these answers goes to form. They all go to interference and stuff in your head that doesn’t belong there.

If the voice in your head is whispering “you stink,” the odds of you making that putt diminish. Practice isn’t the only answer because if it were Sanders would have a Claret Jug on his mantle and Hoch would have a green jacket in his closet and you’d have that Club Champion parking space next to the first tee.

Ed Sehl, PGA teaches at the Tega Cay Golf Club and recently won the prestigious Horton Smith Award from the Carolinas Section of the PGA. Contact him at sehl@fmtc.net or go to his website, EdSehlGolf.com.

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