Why is Tony Finau looking at the hole while he’s putting at the Masters?
Welcome to a special weekend Masters edition of Play Smart, a game-improvement column from Director of Game Improvement content Luke Kerr-Dineen to help you play smarter, better golf.
An idea with some real scientific merit behind it that has yet to make its way into golf’s mainstream is a concept called “heads up putting.” Before this week, Jordan Spieth had been the only golfer who used it, and that was a relatively short-lived experiment.
Heads-up putting is exactly that. It’s when you look at the hole, rather than the golf ball, while you putt. Renowned golf biomechanist Sasho Mackenzie published a wide-ranging study on the technique and found it improved most golfers’ putting. But, alas, heads up putting looks kind of weird, so there hasn’t been widespread adoption yet.
“Most are very dismissive, but by the end of the study when we show them, ‘Look, you actually putted better looking at the far target,’ … many of them will convert,” MacKenzie told Canadian outlet CBC.
Perhaps Finau could single-handedly change that perception this week.
Finau has been tinkering with both his putting technique (swapping his claw grip for a left-hand low style) and his equipment this season. But coming into the 2021 Masters 88th in SG: Putting, Finau still wasn’t pleased. So the day before the Masters, in consultation with GOLF Top 100 Teacher Boyd Summerhays, he adopted the “heads up” technique.
“On Wednesday, the putter didn’t feel great in my hands,” Finau told our Dylan Dethier, who’s been producing a slew of great work from Augusta all week, after his second-round 66.
“I didn’t feel as free as I wanted, so my coach just said, ‘Well, why don’t you just look at the hole.’ I started doing that, and it just started bleeding right into the tournament. I didn’t have a game plan for it but it seems to have freed me up.”
It’s all very feel-based, Finau says, adding that he doesn’t have a set plan for when he’ll go heads-up. It’s all based on comfort level, and he doesn’t do it on every putt. When he does, it’s usually on shorter putts, the area which Finau is trying to improve.
“The closer we get to the hole, especially as professionals, we expect to make those five, six, seven foot putts,” he says.
And so far, he has.
Finau leads the field in putts per green in regulation through two rounds, and is squarely in contention coming into the weekend. If he’s lucky, he may soon be getting a first-hand look at the ball going into the hole for the win this Sunday.
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