Like most practitioners of our great game, I’ve had to improvise in 2020.
You have to leave the flagstick in the hole, even if the shadow of the flag is waving in your putting line. So you learn how to ignore that distraction.
There aren’t any containers for drinking water on the course. So you bring your own.
No ball washers, either. So you be sure to wet down your towel before you begin.
But adjustments are necessary off the course, too, and you have to look for advantages wherever you can.
The biggest of all is being forced to work from home. I actually miss being in the office, but early on I decided to make the best of it – by working on my putting.
It started simply. I would take a few 15-foot putts across the living room while contemplating a work-related issue.
But the more I did it, the more I saw it as an opportunity to try different grips or just work on my mechanics.
I started leaving my putter leaning against the wall all the time, with three golf balls next to it. The more I practiced, the more I found putts that are lengthier and more difficult.
Finally, I came up with the toughest putt of all: from behind the corner of the bed in the guest room, through the doorway at a very narrow angle, past a leg of the kitchen table and into the living room, aiming for a leg on the end table.
It requires intense concentration to come as close to the left side of the guest room doorway as possible. That’s the only way to keep the ball on line toward the intended target.
I thought of that putt as I watched Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson hole their seemingly impossible putts at the end of the recent BMW Championship.
Has there been a better ending on the PGA Tour in recent memory? The only one that comes close was when Justin Thomas and Collin Morakawa traded downhill bombs in the Rocket Mortgage Classic a few weeks earlier, but the stakes weren’t as high and the putts weren’t quite as hard.
Watching pro golf on television usually is like sitting on your patio and taking in nature. You contemplate. You relax. You assess what has happened lately and what might happen in the near future.
But those two finishes were anything but quiet and serene. They were jump-out-of-your-chair moments that should make us all realize just how exciting – yes, exciting – golf can be.
Let the naysayers jibber-jabber all they want. They’ve never felt what it’s like to conquer the golf course, even if it’s for just one shot.
Those putts were all about never giving up, about practicing until your hands are tired, about never wavering in your belief that you can get it done.
What’s your main thought as you stand over a putt of that length?
If your focus is on trusting your read and giving the ball a chance to go in the hole, you’re ahead of the pack. It means you probably make one once in awhile, too.
But if all that comes to mind is not three-putting, then you need to practice more – and work on your head as much as your stroke.
Maybe you should create a putt in the house that forces you to hit the ball where and how far you intended it to go.
It’s a great way to map out a work project in your head. It’s also a useful tool for getting through one more day of the pandemic if you can’t do something even better – go play.