Editor’s note: this appeared in the Jan. 18, 2016, issue of Golfweek Magazine.
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Patton Kizzire loves to compete, even during practice sessions
Patton Kizzire isn’t the sort of player who obsesses over swing mechanics. Through trial and error, he has learned to maximize practice time by creating tournament-like situations into his routine.
“Most of what I do is getting the ball in the hole,” he said. “I’m focused on results.”
If there is a theme to his practice drills, it is competition, which fits his personality, and to treat every shot as if it counts.
“I’ve always had a group of friends who are competing at everything,” Kizzire said. “That’s why I think drills with friends and having something on the line is crucial to getting better.”
The player: Patton Kizzire
Height: 6 feet, 5 inches
Credentials: Winner, 2015 Utah Championship and News Sentinel Open; 2015 Web.com Tour Player of the Year; played at Auburn
The teacher: Todd Anderson
Credentials: Director of instruction at Sea Island (Ga.) Golf Performance Center
Other Students: Luke Guthrie, Billy Horschel, Justin Leonard, Michael Thompson, Harold Varner III
Off the Tee
For Kizzire, the biggest difference in his game during the past two years is his ability to find the fairway. Anderson focused on Kizzire’s takeaway to fix a two-way miss with the driver. Kizzire fought a tendency to swing inside, so Anderson suggested a simple drill designed to get the swing a little wider and shorter at the top. Kizzire places a shaft just outside his toe line and rehearses his swing, trying to stay parallel along the line.
“His tendency was to push his knees toward the target and hips toward the ball,” Anderson said. “That would cause the handle to get high and clubhead to get low, and he’d hit an underneath block or flip hook. (Fitness trainer) Randy Myers worked on strengthening his quads and his glutes. By getting his lower body more stable and keeping the hands closer to the shaft plane and not so high, he could swing the handle a little bit lower and to the left.”
The result? “Now, he’s hitting it straight or a consistent 1-yard cut,” Anderson said.
Making 5-footers feel like gimmes
Putting is the strongest part of Kizzire’s game. He starts every practice session on the putting green by finding a straight, uphill 5-footer. He uses one ball and treats it like a tournament putt.
“I put a line on my ball and line it up. It gives me instant feedback if I’m not rolling it properly,” he said. “Then I read the putt. I make it and move a couple of feet to my right (moving counter-clockwise) and keep doing the same thing. I like to see the ball going in. I feel like 5-footers are gimmes when I’m dialed in. Making those can make your day, make your tournament.”
The Perfect Putter
Last summer, Kizzire started using the Perfect Putter, a green-reading device that creates an ideal roll on the ball, allowing golfers to test their green-reading abilities and visualization.
After determining the location for the perfect roll, he draws a chalk line to mark where the ball should be placed each time. He sets up a metal gate about 1½ feet in front of the ball, which provides immediate feedback on his alignment.
“If you can stroke it through the gate 10-15 times in a row, that means you are starting the putt on the proper line and it gives you confidence that you are rolling the ball correctly and that when you get out there all you have to do is pick the line,” Kizzire said.
Changing angles and lengths
Kizzire places eight tees around a hole, beginning as close as 3 feet and stretching as far as 10 feet in what resembles the shape of a tornado. If he misses one putt, he has to start the drill over from the shortest distance. Kizzire described this as an advanced drill for the skilled player. “It can take a long time and becomes a test of patience and focus,” Kizzire said.
Chipping and pitching
Shortening short-game shots
To stay sharp around the green, Kizzire likes to play “Gauntlet,” an up-and-down game with friends. It is contested over a minimum of nine holes, using one ball, with players rotating who picks the hole. Par is 2. When Kizzire and friends play, the loser buys lunch.
On pitch shots around the green, Kizzire picks a spot where he wants to land the ball. When practicing, he sticks a tee to mark his intermediary target. “I’m not worried about the hole because I’ve already decided where I’m going to land it.
In doing so, I’ve turned a 35-foot chip shot into a 22-foot shot. It distracts you from the make-or-miss,” he said.
Then he takes a practice shot in his mind, and attempts to re-create what he just visualized. In practice, he never hits to the same target twice unless he changes clubs.