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Monday, August 31, 2009

Zach Johnson’s Unusual Putting Stroke

One player getting a lot of TV time over the weekend was Zach Johnson, who played with Tiger Woods every day. Because of this, many people may have seen Zach’s unusual but very effective putting stroke. I mentioned it briefly in my book Ruthless Putting, but this seemed a good time to look at it in more detail. (Clicking the image will take you to Jim Flick’s assessment at golfdigest.com.)

Zach Johnson putting

The unusual aspect of Zach’s style is that he leans the putter shaft backward, so his hands are behind the ball. Zach says this lets the ball come off the face more softly, but there’s more than that going on here.

Zach is an excellent example of what I call the law of extremes.

The law of extremes says you can make a stroke more predictable (and therefore more consistent) by eliminating one extreme of motion. You may have heard players talk about driving to eliminate one side of the course―for example, Ben Hogan designed his swing so that it would not go left, as duck hooks were a problem for him early in his career. Such a swing allows you to aim at the left side of the course, knowing that even a big slice will probably end up in the fairway.

Zach does the same sort of thing with his putting stroke. Many right-handed players have a problem with their left wrists bending backward at impact, often closing the face and causing a pulled putt. But by ‘pre-bending’ his wrist at setup, Zach prevents this from ever happening; his left wrist is already at an extreme position and can’t go any farther.

While I wouldn't recommend it to most people, it helped Zach win a Masters. And with something this simple, it's hard to argue with success!

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