Achenbach: McIlroy heeds some major putting advice

Rory McIlroy (left) and Dave Stockton talked plenty of putting while at a Nike Golf event in Las Vegas.

Rory McIlroy (left) and Dave Stockton talked plenty of putting while at a Nike Golf event in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS – Rory McIlroy and his putting mentor, Dave Stockton, were together for six hours here on Friday, participating in a Nike Golf promotional event at TPC Summerlin.

After cold, rainy weather forced them indoors, the two major champions talked candidly about putting.

Straight from the 72-year-old Stockton, who twice won the PGA Championship, here is a condensed four-part putting lesson. These are the same tips he gave to the 24-year-old McIlroy, who so far has won the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Part 1: Always read the green from the lowest side of the break. Yes, this means your most valuable read will come from the side, not behind the ball.

Part 2: Concentrate on the target. Forget about trying to make a perfect stroke. Absolutely no practice strokes allowed. Visualize the ball on its intended path. See and feel the line.

Part 3: Do not become frozen at address. Putt quickly once you are over the ball. One look and go.

Part 4: Right-handers should allow the back of the left hand to guide the putter toward the target. For left-handers, it’s the back of the right hand.

A few months before the 2011 U.S. Open, McIlroy called Stockton. They had never worked together, but McIlroy needed help. His result? An eight-shot U.S. Open victory at Congressional.

The next year, 2012, Mcilroy added another eight-shot major triumph in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.

McIlroy talked about feeling at ease with Stockton: “I’ve always believed in stroking the ball with the back of the left hand, so there wasn’t any adjustment there. I’ve always been a feel putter, too, and that’s what Dave teaches. We’re a good match, and I feel my putting has become more consistent.”

Stockton is all about results. His emphasis has always been on feel, not mechanics. “You don’t want to be a robot,” he said. “You don’t want to get stuck over the ball. You want putting to be a smooth, flowing process.”

Two additional Stockton principles are more difficult for some to grasp.

One, he believes in continual arm and hand movement during the putting routine. At address, he places his putter head in front of the ball and then behind the ball. One quick look at the target, and the stroke is underway. He never appears to be locked or frozen.

Two, he endorses a forward press to initiate the stroke. Because the forward press delofts the face, he uses a putter with four degrees of loft (son Dave Jr. uses five degrees). Not so coincidentally, Nike putter designer David Franklin revealed that the standard loft for Nike Method putters will be increased from two to three degrees in 2014.

Stockton was a brilliant putter during his playing career. Now he has emerged as a brilliant putting instructor (along with Dave Jr. and Ron, his two sons). High-profile disciples of Stockton include McIlroy and Phil Mickelson.

“Do you pay him?” McIlroy was asked.

“Yes, I pay him,” affirmed McIlroy, smiling, declining to name the amount.

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