Heading into July, Gary Woodland ranks 115th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting and outside the top 100 in most every other putting stat. But for four magical days at Pebble Beach in mid-June, Woodland put on a virtuoso putting performance to capture the U.S. Open Championship and his very first major. He ranked second to Webb Simpson in SG: Putting, picking up a full 8.29 strokes on the field—including 4.30 strokes in Round 2 when he shot a bogey-free 6-under-par 65. Woodland’s clutch putting stroke was a major reason why he posted just four bogeys all week and only one on the back nine.
With “Putt for Dough” Month winding down on Golf Channel, we had GOLF Academy lead coach John Richman of Martin City Golf Center in Kansas City, MO, break down a few of Woodland’s key putting fundamentals from the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Apply these principles to your putting routine and stroke to build a pressure-proof stroke, just like our current national champion.
1. Like most pros, Gary has a stripe on his ball which he uses to line up his putt (you can also use the logo). He points the mark in the direction he wants to ball to start on. Once he sets the ball to his line, it’s just a matter of trusting his read and getting the speed correct. Important: When lining up the stripe make sure you do so from directly behind the ball and not to the side of the ball, at a different angle, which makes it hard to aim the stripe correctly.
2. After lining up his putt, Gary takes a few steps behind the ball and crouches down to visualize the track, or path, that the ball is going to take to the hole. He’s using his tunnel vision and focusing entirely on the track of the putt from the ball to the hole and nothing else. He’s also mentally telling himself that he’s going to make the putt. The brim of the cap being so low helps him minimize distractions (i.e., the crowds moving) and stay focused on his line.
3. What’s important here is that unlike most amateurs, he’s in no hurry to look at the ball and see what the outcome of the putt is. At this point, his eyes remain fixed on the ground and the original spot of the ball and his head hasn’t moved. As a result, he’s able to maintain his posture and keep his shoulders, forearms and knees square to the path of the stroke and make solid contact. A perfect end-over-end roll, as seen by the straight up and down mark on his ball.
4. Gary’s eyes eventually start to follow the ball until they catch up to the ball; at no point do they jump ahead of the ball. It’s a slow, gradual swivel of the head. Note how the bill of his cap remains parallel to his line as does his shoulders and forearms. He simply rocks his shoulders back and forth like the arm on a pendulum, and the grip continues to point to his midsection, or fulcrum point, which allows the putterhead to release and swing on the perfect arc.