Phil Mickelson stared at my golf ball as if it had come from another planet -- which, in a sense, it had. "If this one's gonna go in, it has to pass through here," he announced, pointing to a spot four or five feet short of the hole. Philly Mick said nothing about it being a right-edge putt or starting it nine inches out. He just wanted my birdie attempt to "pass through here."
In situations involving Hall of Fame partners and $10 Nassaus, I do as I am told. And, of course, my putt did exactly what Lefty said it would do, climbing a modest slope on the seventh green at Peachtree G.C., then veering left as it lost speed, then tumbling into the cup and clinching the front nine for the good guys.
It was Nov. 1, 1999. The day after the Tour Championship, held that year in Atlanta, a week to the day after the tragic death of Payne Stewart. It was the day I learned how to read putts, courtesy of a guy who now owns 41 PGA Tour victories and four major titles. The premise, at least as I interpreted it, was fairly simple:
You start by visualizing your ball going into the hole, then work your way back to the point where the putt WILL be struck. You read it from finish to start -- not from start to finish. Lastly, you find the point where you SEE the most influential break, then divide the putt into two parts: a before and after, so to speak.
I was a decent putter before Nov. 1, 1999, a much better one after. And Mickelson? He's done OK with it....