It was a case of the difficult second album for Chris Wood who, after winning his maiden European Tour title at the Qatar Masters in January 2013, had to wait until June of this year to back it up. Much has changed in the two-and-a-half years between Wood’s desert delight and victory in the Lyoness Open, but the key to both successes was the same – his putter. We caught up with him to find out how he holes so many.
1 - The first step is reading the putt correctly and it’s so important.
If you rush this process you’re simply not going to hole your fair share. I switched to spot putting a couple of years ago and it’s really helped me. This is where you visualise the break and then pick a blade of grass about a quarter of the way into the putt. This is your start point and all you are trying to do is roll it over that – forget about the hole.
2 - We all have different ways of gripping the putter.
Whichever method you favour, make sure it allows your hands and fingers to stay quiet. I’ve worked with Phil Kenyon on my putting for a little while now and he changed my grip about four years ago. When we started working together he called my fingers ‘the slugs’! This was because they were too active in the stroke and causing me to miss putts. We changed it to make sure that my palms face each other before I wrap my hands around the grip to keep them neutral and passive.
3 - Posture is important as you need to feel comfortable and relaxed over the putt.
Get fitted for a putter that suits your build as well as your stroke. This is another thing that Phil and I changed a little while ago as I had a tendency to be very straight and rigid in my posture before. Given my height – six feet, six inches – this was giving me problems. I was reluctant to hunch or bend too much so to soften my posture we added length to my putter to get it up to 37 inches long (yours is probably around 34 inches). This got my hands slightly higher and my body a touch more rounded.
4 - It sounds simple, but ball position is something I really have to work on.
If I don’t spend time on it, it has a tendency to slip and even a fraction can make me miss. This is one of my danger areas and something I have to keep on top of during practice. I want the ball just slightly forward of centre, but it has a tendency to get just a touch too far forward in my stance which has a negative effect on my strike and roll. Those things, as well as my alignment, improve massively with the ball further back towards the centre.
5 - When it comes to your stance there are no set rules, just find a position that works for you.
I tend to stand with my feet shoulders-width apart but it’s really up to you. My feet are probably a bit further apart than some players but I’m one of the tallest guys out here and that position helps me feel really balanced before I strike the ball. The most important thing is to feel comfortable.
6 - A smooth tempo is ideal.
You don’t want a jerky or stilted action as this will lessen your ability to strike the ball out of the centre and roll it purely. You’ll often see me with my headphones in on the practice putting green and it’s not because I’m trying to ignore the other players or the fans! I use a metronome app on my phone that helps me to maintain a consistent tempo for a smooth stroke. I putt at around 77 beats per minute and try to replicate this out on the course.
7 - When it comes to distance control there is not much that changes in terms of my technique from a four-footer to a 40-footer.
One thing I will alter slightly when I’m faced with a long putt is in my routine. For anything that is more than about 10 feet from the hole, I’ll always come around and have a long look from the side. I just think this gives you a better appreciation of the overall distance.
8 - I know it’s totally different in the pro game but, where possible, you have to put a little bit of time in before your round.
When I come home and play at my home club, Long Ashton, I see loads of guys walk straight to the tee. I know it’s tough, but try and spend a little time – even just 10 or 15 minutes before you go out – getting the pace of the greens and the tempo of your stroke. It will be worth two or three shots a round.
9 - Knowing how to practise and what order to work on things is important.
I always start my sessions on a straight putt as it tells me instantly if I’m starting the putt on line. If I’m not and I’m missing putts to the right, for example, I know that either my path is too much from the inside or the face is open at impact. Starting this way just takes away any second guessing.
10 - We all miss putts from time to time.
We’re only human and you can’t beat yourself up. Overcoming a missed opportunity is crucial, especially if you knock it a few feet past! It’s something I’ve definitely got better at as I’ve got older and played more events. You can’t get carried away by the outcome or what it might mean on a leaderboard.