Follow Mahan's plan of attack to make more birdies


Hunter Mahan got the FedEx Cup playoff season started the right way with win at The Barclays on Sunday.

His final-round 65 was impressive, as he outlasted a surging Stuart Appleby for a two-shot victory. Mahan led the field by hitting more than 80 percent of his greens in regulation. Combine that with gaining 1.036 strokes on the field in putting and you have a recipe to make lots of birdies.

Hitting greens in regulation and making putts are constants among winners on the PGA Tour, and the goal is obviously to get the ball in the hole and make more birdies.

So here are a few thoughts to increase your ability to make birdies by hitting more greens in regulation and sinking the putt:

Hit it closer. This seems obvious but many players have unrealistic expectations about the putts they should make. From a statistics point of view, any putt outside 5 feet is just as likely to miss as opposed to go in. When you get to 10 feet, more putts are missed than made. Hitting 18 greens in regulation would be awesome, but if every birdie putt is 20 feet or more, chances are you’re going to miss a lot of putts, and not because you are bad putter. So don't be afraid to attack the flag with your scoring clubs when risk is low.

Curve the ball toward the target. Learning to draw or fade the ball into your target certainly requires a lot of practice. Controlling your swing direction (aka swing path), along with the position of your clubface at impact, will create side spin and curve your shots. If you find yourself curving the ball too much in one direction, try to intentionally curve the ball the opposite way by swinging in a different direction and changing the clubface position at impact. A lesson with a PGA professional will be the most efficient way to make these changes.

Discover your putting trends. When rolling putts on the practice green, take note of the putts you are missing. If the ball keeps missing on the low side of the hole, be sure to play more break on the course. If your putts keep coming up short, make a conscious effort to get the ball past the hole. By quickly identifying your trends, you can just as quickly adjust to increase your chances to make more putts.

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