With his quick, walking-on-air stride and a putting stroke as smooth as a pool shark's, Vancouver pro Jim Nelford seems to exude confidence. It figures. He leads the PGA Tour in consecutive cuts made, at 28.
Off the tees and fairways, Nelford hits right-handed. But when he gets on the greens with the cash club in his hands, he works left-handed, a carryover from his slap shot from the left side in youth hockey.
He struggled with his iron game yesterday and shot 76, but his putting handiwork was evident when he sank a 20-foot birdie on the first hole, a 15-foot birdie on the 10th, got down in two from 40 feet above the hole on the slippery seventh green, and when he two-putted his finishing hole from 70 feet.
Nelford advises golfers to "line up square and pick a line, just like a line on a linoleum floor, and try to keep the putter on that line 1 1/2 feet behind the ball and 1 1/2 feet through the ball.
"Putting takes practice and feel. You have to trust your feel. The average player often decelerates through the ball, that takes it off line. You should try for a positive accelerating stroke. I try to have my eye pretty well over the ball. That assures a pendulum stroke."
Said fellow Canadian Richard Zokol, "The basic putting stroke is to keep the putter low and on line going back and accelerating through impact and towards the hole. The logic is simple, but there are 5 million ways to miss. The main reason people miss putts is because they put pressure on themselves, it's a fear of failure. As soon as you put more importance on a putt, you increase your chances of missing."
Among Columbia pro Bill Strausbaugh's tips: when putting under 10 feet, try to hear the ball go into the hole, not see it go into the hole; use the cross-handed grip on the practice stroke to promote arm putting, and point the label of the ball on the line you want to putt it.