Dr. Bob Rotella is fond of saying, “putt like you don’t care if you make it.” The advice is supposed to keep you focused on your routine and not let pressure situations alter your nerves or approach. Can you take this to the extreme? I did, and was not getting mad at myself when I’d three-putt or miss a make-able shortie and had started to wonder; do I really care? Why am I playing like a Zombie? That was until two weekends ago playing The Links At Gettysburg. We were coming up the 18th (a reachable par-5) and I had ripped a long drive to within 180 yards in the left rough.
The approach was over water and I picked a 4-iron and stuck it two feet from the cup. As I approached the green, I sort of conceded the eagle putt in my mind. It was one of those that would normally be conceded in a match but if you’re just playing for score, you should putt it out. . .because it’s for eagle. So, I casually strolled up, tapped it and missed left. Now that was surly the shortest eagle putt I have ever blown and at the time I felt a little numb but just shrugged it off – because I didn’t care. But on the drive home I started stewing. Why hadn’t I gone through my regular routine on that damn putt!
Now the story gets better. I’m drawing inspiration from my friend Jim, over at The Grateful Golfer. Jim was working all winter on his chipping and putting in his basement, waiting for the snow to melt. He reported his short game was sharp at the season’s start, and I’m reminded of a winter long ago when I built a putting track and used it for a few months. That spring I was automatic from inside six feet. So after the round at Gettysburg, I decided to work short game and putting – exclusively. I even dragged out my old alignment stick drill
and have been banging groups of 50 4-foot putts to build good rhythm, get centeredness of contact, and start the ball on line. I want automatic again. Now this drill is VERY mechanical, but it has worked before and just payed off.
Fast forward to yesterday’s round at my home course, Blue Mash. “The Mash” hits you with three par-4s at the start of 424, 428, and 453 yards – hard holes. I hit good putts on 1 and 2 that didn’t go in and bogeyed both. After a nice two putt par on #3, I hit a great tee shot to #4 which is a 190-yard par-3. From 20 feet straight uphill, I blew it by six feet and three-putted, but here was the difference. I got pissed and back in the cart, slammed my fist on the seat. And then something happened after that burst of emotion; I felt a weird sense of relief, like some strange burden was lifted off my shoulders. Almost immediately, I regained an amazing level of concentration with my putter and rolled in five birdies and ended up shooting 71 (even par). It felt good to get mad again because I realized I do care and missed putts do matter.
I seemed to have rescued myself from this zombie like state. Have you ever gone “Rotella” too far in the opposite direction?