For me, the lasting image from this year's Kraft Nabisco was not I.K. Kim's miss from 10 inches but the scenes of America's stars—Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie—missing putt after putt. Analysts say Yani Tseng(below) dominates through her ball striking and length, but putting is the key. Over 72 holes Paula gives up six shots to Yani on the greens, Lexi 11.24 and Michelle 12!
The Americans look like robots in a factory trying to paint the Mona Lisa. It doesn't work that way. Putting is art, not science. It's sensory—sight, sound, feel. It's trust. It's about feeling the putt go in and the crowd roar before contact is even made. It helps to use the science available, to have a putter that fits your stroke and know that putter is lined up properly, but beyond that it is all artistry.
What do the Americans need to do? First, lose the sunglasses as they get near the green. Take in the nuances of color, slope and shadow as soon as possible. Lose the caddie read; only the player knows the speed at which she intends to hit a putt. No coaches. Fly solo to build trust in yourself. Hit putts blindfolded to build feel. Michelle should spend a few days with Bubba Watson. He has no script. If he hits the ball off line, he has no whys, he says simply, "It went there." Lexi should get her hands on Paul Azinger's old Thing putter. The head was shaped like a football and barely bigger than a golf ball. Lexi hits putts all over the face of the putter, so the best fix is a face not big enough for a miss. For Paula, ask Brad Faxon or Ian Baker-Finch if you can watch them hit a few putts. Both have simple, artistic methods—not stiff and metronomic. Then, just go play.
Dottie Pepper is a 17-year LPGA veteran and an NBC reporter.
ROBERT BECK (PEPPER)
KOHJIRO KINNO (TSENG)