WHO: Phil Mickelson
WHAT: A missed two-foot par putt
WHERE: 243-yard par 3 11th hole at Royal St. George’s
WHEN: Final round of the British Open
After years of futility on the greens at the British Open, Mickelson finally seemed to have figured out how to putt in the wind and on links courses. At the 11th hole on Sunday, Mickelson was six under-par for his final round, just one shot behind Darren Clarke. Up to that point, Mickelson was draining putts with ease in the gusty conditions.
Then Mickelson’s yips returned. At 11, he had a two-footer for par. Instead of marking the ball, he nonchalantly addressed it and rammed the putt too hard so it hit the right side of the cup and lipped out. An easy par turned into a deflating bogey. The gaffe discombobulated Mickelson, and he made three more bogies in his final seven holes to finish three shots behind Clarke, who seemed to make every putt — long and short — at Royal St. George’s.
I learned how to putt in the wind while watching Andy North win the 1978 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. It was a windy final round, and Andy, a tall man like Mickelson and Clarke, had to hunker down to remain stable on the greens. Andy had a two-shot lead at 18, a hard par 4, when he chunked his third shot, a pitch, into a front greenside bunker. After a great sand shot to four feet, North bent down over the bogey putt to brace himself against the wind (and the pressure), and he drained it to win.
THE DRILL: Putting in the wind requires you to modify your stance. You need to widen your feet, toe in your toes and hunch over a bit at the waist. Doing those things will lower your center of gravity and brace your body.
Using that putting stance, do this drill on the practice green to prepare for putting in wind or pressure situations: Hit long putts holding the putter with only your right hand, because the right hand controls feel on the greens. So hitting putts with just the right hand will teach you how to lag long putts close to the hole. Also, hit short putts holding the putter with only the left hand, because the left hand is most responsible for guiding the putter through the stroke.