On any given Sunday, the 5-footer is no problem. Right now, the average PGA Tour player makes percentage for 5 foot putts is about 81.9%. For the Average Joe like you, we’re talking…a lot less than that. But you get the point. It’s still one of the easiest shots in the game. However, for even the winningest players on tour, what’s easy as pie turns into a whole different ball game on Major Sunday.
How is it that we go from the walk-up-and-hit-it, one-handed, one-footed, back-of-the-putter, not-even-looking, talking-to-your-buddies 5-footer to the sick-to-your-stomach feeling you get over a 5-footer that matters?
Maybe you bet a few extra dollars you really didn’t have. Maybe you need this putt to win the club championship. Maybe you’re tied with the friend you’ve never beaten or draining this one would mean that you shoot your personal best. All of a sudden the sweat is beading down your face, your hands get a little shaky, and you feel like you’ve forgotten how to take the putter back.
I imagine this is kind of how it feels for a lot of professional athletes when the game, or even the season, is on the line. Basketball players make free-throw after free-throw in practice, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they still get the same vomit-y feeling we do when there are only 1.6 seconds left on the clock. I bet kickers obtain the kind of automatic that it takes to drive your car from work to your house without ever thinking about it, and snapping back into it in your driveway wondering how you got there. But put a championship ring on the line, and I’m pretty sure they’re second-guessing themselves in that moment too. I even wonder if soccer players have ever tried imagining the goalkeeper in his underwear in order to execute a routine penalty kick.
From golfers, I’ve heard a list of tips and tricks to get rid of the 5-footer nerves ranging from “close your eyes” to telling yourself “even my mother could make this putt” before hitting it. What I’m saying is, there’s not really a surefire way to outrun that feeling. Nerves are not necessarily a bad thing: they mean you care. But believing in yourself despite the nerves is what separates the best from the rest. Next time you have to make your 5-footer, for whatever reason it may be—big or small, remember that you’ve probably made a thousand others just like it without ever batting an eye.
Kayla is a professional golfer on the LPGA Symetra Tour and the Women’s All-Pro Tour. She has played professionally overseas on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour as well. Kayla graduated from Florida State University after playing all 4 years on the golf team there. Go Noles.
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