US Masters: We have to learn to putt

Australia will never win a US Masters until we learn how to putt more consistently; it’s as simple as that. And that’s the crux of why we’ve blown our chances at Augusta for another year.

We just don’t putt well enough. I’ve been saying for years that a lot of our guys hit the ball better than 99 per cent of the other players out there. But they don’t hole enough putts and their short games in general aren’t sharp enough. And if you have that chink in your armour, you soon get found out at Augusta National that’s for sure.

<strong>Mark Leishman:</strong> Masters debutante US Masters: We have to learn to putt

The greens there have as much slope on them as the greens here at Royal Melbourne and they are probably as fast as Royal Melbourne in its heyday as well.

Robert Allenby’s new-found putting grip worked well enough on the regular tour events but I think it was probably found wanting on the quicker greens at Augusta which seriously examine intestinal fortitude as well as technique.

Likewise Adam Scott thought he was on the right track with his swing. But as I said after a press conference when he commented that he had his swing right, it’s been an acknowledged fact he has a swing as good, if not better, than Tiger Woods.

It’s always been his inconsistent and at times plain horrible putting that has let him down, which has the flow-on effect on the rest of his game.

Johnny Senden, as well, has always been a bit hit-and-miss too with his putting. He’s a bit like Peter Lonard, who is currently out injured – when his putter is working he contends, but when it’s off he struggles. Scott, Senden and Lonard are world-class ball strikers; however, you can’t have any doubts in your putting stroke when you head for Augusta, that’s for sure.

Geoff Ogilvy’s game has been inconsistent this year and he just wasn’t as his best at the Masters albeit that his high ball flight is perfectly suited to Augusta.

As for Nathan Green and Mark Leishman – well, it was always going to be tough for the first timers. It’s a very tall order to expect to go there and contend at your first Masters. There aren’t too many that can do that. I was interested to read that Marc Leishman came home last year and spent three months working almost solely on his short game.

Then he went back to America and the first few weeks he played gangbusters. And I remember thinking ‘gee, he’s on the right track that bloke’.

Most of our guys spend too much time worrying where the club is at the top of their backswing. It seems to be an Aussie trait – even back to my time and before that. Most of our players already swing the club well and don’t spend enough time working on their short games.

The other key thing is I really don’t think we have enough people who could seriously classify themselves as good short-game coaches. The great Norman von Nida was the exception. His knowledge apart, he also played at the highest level, a combination that is necessary in my opinion to understand the nuances of the short game in the heat of battle.

The Yanks have got four or five really good ones and I certainly think this is something that needs to be looked at for future generations – because we need to get better at it. A lot of the regular Aussie guys now on the US Tour may well have missed their opportunity to win a major – it’s up to the new young brigade if we are going to win one.

I think Ogilvy could still be an exception to that – I think there could be another major in him – if he’s ‘on song’ in all components of his game -particularly mentally.

But back to Augusta and if you get a bit of wind like they got on that first day there – these young fellows playing there for the first time are just not used to that. You don’t normally get strong winds at Augusta. You do get storms at this time of year and can also expect rain delays when you play there.

I remember having plenty of rain delays when I played there. I think I played there six times and had three or four rain delays in that time. But the first time there you just don’t know all the subtleties of the golf course.

There are several holes at Augusta, for instance, where it is an absolute must that you don’t hit it past the hole – club selection is vital. And if we are going to win a Masters soon – I really think it is going to have to be one of the young blokes now who’ll have to step up and grab his chance.

Whether that’s Michael Sim, Jason Day, Rick Kulacz or whoever, we’ll just have to wait and see.