David Hearn: Mastering the art of putting is a process

David Hearn, from Brantford, Ont., putts on the ninth green during third round of play at the Canadian Open golf tournament Saturday, July 25, 2015 in Oakville, Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Throughout the season, Canadian golf stars Adam Hadwin, David Hearn and Graham DeLaet will check in with to provide readers with candid insights as they compete on the PGA Tour.

When I started the year I hoped 2016 would kick off differently than other years. Since I returned to the PGA Tour, I’ve always struggled to play well during the swing of tournaments on the west coast. And this year I have a bit more going on as I change from a long putter to a conventional one and my situation when it came to playing in Arizona and California would be different. In retrospect, I might have been too optimistic.

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After all, I’m learning a whole new set of muscles and how to use the new putter. That said I try to take some positives from it and I think I benefited from working through my putting at tournaments I normally don’t play well in. The funny thing is that I actually feel like those courses should suit my game. There’s no reason to my way of thinking I don’t play well on the west coast. However, I’m a player who has to make mistakes to figure it out and get it right. I believe that at the start of the year I’m shaking off some rust and it takes time for me to find a rhythm. Perhaps that’s why I play well in Florida—I’ve worked out my mistakes in the first month or two. But if I knew what the problem was, I’d obviously fix it.

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Regardless of the fact I didn’t make the cut at the Honda two weeks ago, I’m starting to get into a good rhythm and my putting is coming around. I can tell when things are close. I turned a corner, even though my scores might not have shown it. I’m excited about heading into Tampa and Bay Hill. Once I get this figured out, good scores will follow.

It is interesting to pay attention to other players who have made the switch from a long putter and see how they’ve dealt with the change. After all, putting is an art. When you’re not feeling confident on the greens it will affect the rest of your game. You can hit it close and not make putts and eventually you can get frustrated. Some guys can spend their whole career that way, and hit the ball well enough to always be competitive. I’ve been a good putter and I feel like I’ve seen both sides of it—I’ve putted well and there are times when I haven’t.

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That’s why, if you look at the grander scheme of things, I think the issue around performance enhancing drugs and golf isn’t a real factor. That’s because as strong as you can be in one area, you still have to master these areas, like putting, that are subtle and have a lot of nuances. You have to have fine motor control to make putts when you need them the most. That’s why golf is such a challenge—you go from extreme power, to slowing down and making putts when you need them.

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When you look at Adam Scott and how he struggled with it—even with the long putter—I think he was ready to make the switch. He’s a guy who hit the ball so well that he’s competitive even when he’s not putting well. But I know the transition will work out for me. I feel like I have a technique and style down. I’m seeing the signs of why I was a great putter with the anchored method.

David Hearn is playing this week’s Valspar Championship that is broadcast on Global TV both Saturday and Sunday.

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