Pete Cowen: Converting putts far more crucial than bombing it miles off the tee

I must have said this a million times, but the game is won and lost on the greens. It doesn’t matter if you can drive the ball 400 yards, the winner will always be the player with the fewest shots. That will never change. Most of the players these days are long and the bombers like Rory and Dustin have the advantage of going in with a club or two less – but they still need to convert those opportunities.

I was a streaky putter and held 25 course records when I was playing but my problem professionally was keeping the putter hot for all four rounds. I see a lot of players falling into the same category and maybe that’s why we have so many first time winners these days.

The players who stand out are the ones who can keep things consistent on the greens. I’ve never looked too closely at the statistics on the PGA Tour as they are misleading. I always ask my players, how many birdie chances did you have from 5; 10; 15 and 20 feet per round. If you are playing well you are seeing pins and not greens. That’s when a player’s confidence is high and low scores are made. It’s not just the birdies, though, that keeps a good card. Look at Justin Thomas’ win at the Honda Classic. He was 18 from 18 in scrambling. So having the short game to knock it close also takes the pressure off your putting.

I hear people say that Spieth isn’t what he was on the greens. That might be the case this year as he’s 121st from putts inside three feet, but he still manages to hole 99.45% of them! You don’t lose talent and the fact he’s still managing to keep inside the top 20 in scoring averages shows the rest of his game is in good shape. All it takes is a few more putts to drop and his confidence goes sky high and we all know what happens then!

Rory McIlroy is another player going through a few confidence battles on the greens. Though coming from playing in the Middle East over winter and having to adapt to the grain and speed on the USA West Coast on the PGA Tour isn’t an easy transition. Once he settles into things and improves on his greens in regulation, I’d expect him to roll in more putts and shoot low. It’s too early in the season to start analysing too much and these guys look to peak for the Majors and nothing else. So, let’s get The Masters out of the way before we start pulling apart the form-book.


The Masters is setting up to be one of the best ever. Bubba is hitting form; Rory and Jordan will be on song; Day is back to winning ways; Johnston will start favourite if he can keep his feet dry; Justin Thomas has got into the winning groove early but now we’ve got Tiger back the dream scenario has come together. The younger players will have the physical edge over Tiger but that isn’t a winning edge. Tiger technically is 8 out of 10; 6 out of 10 mechanically and 10 out of 10 mentally. If you are 7 out of 10 I believe you can win multiple Majors. The only two players I rate to be better are Tiger and, of course, Jack Nicklaus. Tiger’s short game and mental edge give him the tools to win another Major. I believe, and I’ve said it many times, even when he looked done, there’s more to come from Tiger. He’s still been the only player I’ve ever seen who’s an exception to every rule and belief in the game.

When Rory and Justin Thomas were paired with him at The Honda Classic they could knock it 20 yards past Tiger when they stepped on a drive, but Tiger still managed to finish nine shots better than Rory and five clear of defending Masters champion Sergio. So, the 2018 season is stacking up to become the one where they all come together.