Its all about pace

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Nick Watney’s 40-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the par-3 16th hole at Torrey Pines on Sunday was sweet redemption for a three-putt he had from a similar distance during the final round of last year’s U.S. Open. Watney’s putt broke sharply from right to left and then appeared to veer right at the last second and catch the left edge of the cup, helping him seize the momentum and overtake John Rollins for a one-stroke victory at the Buick Invitational.
 
Watney’s putt had the perfect pace on it, something most amateurs overlook when preparing to lag putt. Most of their focus is on the line, and where they’re going to hit the ball along this line, not on speed and the total distance the ball has to travel. They’re also thinking about how not to three-putt, which makes them more cautious and, more often than not, leads to a putt that stops well short of the hole.
 
Here’s a drill I call “Lag for Break,” which will improve your distance control on putts of 15 feet or more. Lay down a shaft horizontally about 15 feet away, and putt three balls toward the shaft, trying to get each ball to finish as close to the goal line (my name for the shaft) as possible without touching it. Once you get good at lagging each putt within inches of the goal line, change your target to two tees and then finally a spot, such as an old filled-in cup or tuft of green. Lag to distances of 25 and 35 feet, but no more. The more consistent your pace is on long putts, the better your green-reading skills will be and the more you’ll think about holing out in one putt, just as Watney did on Sunday.