I made two putts last year which were both absolutely huge; the biggest I’ve ever made in my career.
The first came in July at the Open at Royal Birkdale. It was an 18-footer and, at the time, I thought if I could make it I might win the Open. I looked at the line and thought it was just outside the right edge. Even though there were 20,000 people around the hole and millions more watching on tv, I didn’t really notice them because I was concentrating so hard on the line. I walked around the other side of the hole and liked what I saw because that confirmed the line. I could feel my heart-rate soaring and just concentrated on breathing properly. Although I was probably over the ball for only about 15 seconds, it felt like a lifetime, and yet I just tried to enjoy it. It went right in the middle, and as I saw it drop, it felt great.
The second came in September during the Saturday afternoon fourballs in my match with Graeme McDowell against Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry. It was an unbelievable match, the best I’ve ever played in. They were just brutal but we both played out of our skins. Despite the fact that they were 5-under on the last seven holes, I still had a putt on the last to win the match.
It was only three feet, but the whole match depended on it, and it was a fast, downhiller. Quite apart from the fact that I was sugar-rushing myself because I was so exhausted, I also had a lot of time to think about it. As soon as I marked my putt I could see the line: just left of centre. I knew that provided I could hit that line, it was going to go in, because it was so fast.
It was a surreal moment, because I then had a lot of time to walk around, see my team sitting there, see the American team, and see the crowd. First, I watched as Graeme’s putt for birdie slipped by and then Furyk missed his eagle attempt. I tried not to get buzzed up, though it was very difficult. When it went in I went bananas.
Everything about you is telling you to get over-excited, but if you concentrate on your breathing, you can often counter this.
Take your time
You will find yourself rushing both your preparation and your walking. Just think about slowing everything down.
Pick the right line
Without this, it’s not going to go in. Look from both sides of the hole and don’t get over the ball until you are quite sure of the line and have visualised the ball falling in the hole.
So many amateurs I see in Pro Ams get sidetracked by all the periphery things around them. Just keep visualising the ball rolling into the middle of the hole on the perfect line and with perfect pace.
Enjoy the pressure
Get excited not nervous. Don’t think about the repercussions of missing the putt; think about what’s going to happen when you make it. Enjoy the fact that your intensity level has been turned up one thousand per cent.