Dublin, OH — Michael Kim was grinding on the putting green Wednesday at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide trying to possibly find the key to success.
Kim was pleased to take a couple of minutes away from putting the golf ball to discussing how crucial putting was to his game and ultimate success. This season, he is 15th in strokes gained putting at .580.
On paper, putting should be very easy, after all, those are the shots closest to the green, but often the pros struggle just as much as the average golfer and it can be tough to break out of unnecessary habits.
“The way I explain it to people is that kind of like a Tiger Woods video game back in 2005 when you had the ‘Tiger vision’ and it automatically shows you the line so you see an imaginary line and hit it on that line,” Kim explained. “That’s kind of how I see putts.”
It is not always this way, and Kim is coming off a couple of putting weeks he declared were not up to what he is accustomed to, perhaps another reason why putting was a focal point of his practice session.
Luke Donald was the top ranked player in the world for 56 total weeks and a lot of it was because of his putting. In fact Donald dominated the strokes gained putting statistic between 2008 and 2013. Donald credits this with his total body of work from 100 yards and in.
After failing to meet his standards with the putter for a couple of years, Donald is back up to second in strokes gained putting.
“I’ve always tried to do the same thing with putting and tried to be diligent with the fundamentals such as short strokes you can’t make compensations like you can with a full swing,” said Donald. “I’m very diligent about the proper fundamentals that give me the best chance to hit a ball on line. I work a lot of that on practice days and then obviously when it’s tournament time you just let that take over.”
A key to Donald’s putting success has been simplifying things in his mind which serves as an effort to put less pressure and thoughts on himself. Currently, Donald is pleased with his putting and is able to judge a line and speed before putting.
“When things are going well, you don’t have to think about it as much,” he said. “There’s a double-edged sword to that, you don’t want to be thinking about it on the course. You don’t want to think about anything too much, but if you’re struggling you tend to have too many thoughts and can get tangled up with that.”
Billy Hurley III did not have a choice. He had to become a good putter in order to achieve the success he desired.
“Basically I was a really bad ball striker and I had to be good at something,” Hurley III stated.
Hurley III, the 2016 Quicken Loans National winner, has used his short game as a model for his overall ball striking which has helped him earn three top-20 finishes this season.
It is Hurley III’s short game consistency which has helped his playing career. Hurley III has been rather consistent these past two seasons ranking 21st in strokes gained putting last year and 22nd thus far this year.
“I think you can make putting just as complicated as driving if you want to,” said Hurley III. “Some of the guys who are good at putting think putting is easy and the guys who are good at driving think driving is easy. For me, what I do is I know what works for me and what drills work for me and get me back on track if I need. Some weeks you do all of them and sometimes you do none of them.”
What has made Hurley III’s putting remain sharp is a drill commonly practiced by several of the tour pros. He lines up 10 golf balls, three at 3 feet, five at 5 feet and then two at seven-and-a-half feet and must sink nine of the 10 putts.
Though situations and stakes certainly change when putting on a practice green Tuesday in comparison to putting on the 18th hole for a Sunday win, golfers on the PGA TOUR are able to simplify their respective approaches in order to obtain maximum success.
“You try and control your breathing,” Kim said. “The more times you are in contention, the more comfortable you get.”
If the weather holds, the Muirfield Village Golf Club greens are among the fastest on tour and it will give everyone a good challenge on the greens.
“The green gets faster throughout the week,” said Kim. “These greens are pretty fast and it’s just a Wednesday. As long as it doesn’t rain too much it should keep up speed until Sunday.”