Many recreational golfers can practice putting for hours on a practice green, hammering in putts from all angles and lengths, and then miss a two-footer on the first hole of play.

It’s normal. Almost no one likes to do putting drills, especially because they don’t often seem to help with those short knee knockers.

Putting can be wicked even for top-of-the-line pros. Virtually every leading player has missed relatively easy putts in the heat of competition.

Throughout professional golf history, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods stand out as two of the best putters. If you had to pick a player to make a putt to save your life, you might pick Nicklaus or Woods at their peak.

What makes those who are good so good?

Rory McIlroy says it’s all about trust.

“I think trusting your read. Trusting your stroke,” he said. “Trusting your instincts. I think the reason people miss putts more than anything else is indecisiveness, not committing to a read, not committing to a speed.

“That trust just comes from seeing the ball go in the hole more often than it doesn’t. So it comes from practice. It comes from seeing that practice pay off in play.”

So, another endorsement for more practice. Ugh.

McIlroy says it’s also important to move on from a bad putt and leave it in the history file.

“The other thing is accepting that you are going to miss putts and that missed putt doesn’t carry over into you reacting in some way to you hitting your next putt,” he said. “So, I’m on the first hole. I miss a right-to-lefter low, and I get on the second hole and I have a right-to-lefter again. I don’t react to that first putt by reading more into it just because I missed the previous one low.

“I think you have to try to keep every putt its own putt and not try to react to the other putts that you’ve hit that day.”

This makes excellent sense. McIlroy often makes excellent sense.

And what about Nicklaus? Ask which players he considers the best putters, and he’ll list Ben Crenshaw, Brad Faxon, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, and, not surprisingly, himself.

“A guy becomes a great player when he makes putts when he has to make them,” Nicklaus said.

He said making a high-pressure putt, for example on the 18th green to win a tournament, gives a player a much better chance to make the next big one.

“The thing that sort of guided my career – in 1959 at the U.S. Amateur at Broadmoor, I had an eight-footer at the last hole to win and beat Charlie Coe 1-up,” Nicklaus said. “We were all even coming to the last hole. I made that putt.”

And Nicklaus made many more crucial putts on the way to becoming a golf icon.

More than a few PGA Tour golfers name Denny McCarthy as the best putter among the current list of players. Patrick Cantlay picked McCarthy but said he would call on Tiger Woods “if the putt has any consequence.

“Putting is, at this level, a lot about reading the greens,” he said. “Reading the greens I think is an undervalued skill. After that, I mean, it’s rolling it on the line with the pace that you want.”

Sounds pretty simple. Except that it’s not.