Pro Career

Notah Begay III Celebrates Bogey to Tie for FourthFewest putts for the week 105.  5 less putts than the 2nd best

For the last 25 years I have been watching the golf tournament from Pebble Beach. Traditionally on the final round, the pin on the 18th green has been tucked directly behind the front bunker. Each year the announcers proclaim “no one has made the putt from behind the hole again this year.” With the pin tucked behind the front bunker, the prudent play is to hit your ball past the pin to the middle of the green. This leaves the players a downhill left to right putt. The right-handed players invariably leave this putt short and to the right of the hole. This year was no exception. Numerous putts by the finest right-handed putters in the world missed short and to the right of the hole.

Switch Putting was invented for courses with steep breaking greens such as Pebble Beach. This year was Notah Begay`s first chance to win at Pebble Beach. His drive into the ocean on eighteen finished his chances to win. But he did make the tricky downhill left to right putt on the 18th green. He made the 20 foot left to right putt left-handed for a hard working bogey 6. [see picture] He started the tournament with a beautiful left-handed putt for birdie from 12 ft. at Poppy Hills, and he finished with another beautiful left-handed putt on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. He had the fewest putts of the week, 105.  5 less putts than the 2nd best putter for the week, which was Jeff Sluman with 110.

With his two consecutive wins in 2000, giving him four tour wins in his first two years on the PGA Tour, Notah has proven Switch putting is a viable option for any golfer wanting to improve their putting. If your weakness is those little putts that break away, please consider stepping below the ball and inside the arc of the putt, and learn to putt those from the other side. Remember that 43% of the game is putting, and half of those are putts that break away from the conventional putters. Approximately 1/5 of all your strokes in any golf round are low percentage slice putts. Any improvement in that aspect of your golf game will be directly reflected on your scorecard. Switch putting has worked for Notah Begay and many others, and it can help you too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Notah Begay Wins with Switch PuttingAugust 1999

My partner Brian Stack and I have been seeing Notah Begay III approximately twice a year for the last four years. We go to a couple tournaments a year to check on his progress. He invited us to come to the Reno-Tahoe Open and to give him a tune up. After his practice round on Tuesday before the tournament he asked us to help him with his right-handed putting stroke. He said “don’t mess with my left-handed stroke; it is the most consistent part of my entire golf game.”  As we were the ones who taught him to putt left-handed, we agreed. His primary difficulty was with his right-handed stroke. Two thirds of our practice time with most of the better players, is spent working on their right-handed putting strokes. We always thought it would be the other way around. We thought this would be because of the player’s lack of experience putting left-handed. Once the player is reasonably comfortable putting left-handed, they usually only need a minor tune-up to their left-handed stroke. All the major problems seem to come with their right-handed putting strokes.   

    Notah began the lesson by rolling in 6 out of 20 putts from 10 feet, 30%. We had been trying for the previous year to get Notah to move the ball closer to his body, more directly under his eyes. Brian had even sent Notah a letter recommending he move the ball closer to his feet and directly under his eyes. This was also my recommendation to him the last time I saw him in San Diego for the Buick Invitational. This was the same problem he had with his ball position in his long game prior to the Oregon Duck Invitational. We recommended he move the ball three balls closer, he did and went out and set the course record [10 birdie 63] on Saturday and went on to win.

 In Reno our recommendation was the same for his putting, that he move the ball three balls closer to his feet and directly under his eyes. This also moved his hands closer to his body, which is a much more consistent position from which to putt.  With the ball so far away, he had developed a loop in his stroke.  He complained that his blade was finishing in a closed position. Both of these problems were essentially eliminated with the adjustment in his ball position. With his hands directly under his shoulders, his swing path was less of an arc and more straight back and straight thru. This also helped to keep the blade squarer throughout the entire putting stroke. He then proceeded to make 27 out of the next 30 putts from 10 feet, 90%. His confidence was growing with every successful series of putts. I will never forget the look on his face when he canned 5 in a row for the second straight time. 

While we had his attention, I made one more request. I told him that he was going to make more right-handed putts, so let’s get “into the hunt”.  Notah agreed that it was time.   I also told him that like all rookies on the PGA tour, he was at a severe disadvantage in the majority of the tournaments his first year. But since this was the first year of the Reno-Tahoe Open, everyone essentially was a rookie at the Montreau Golf Club. He proceeded to putt beautifully all week... Especially impressive was his course record 9 under 63 on Saturday. He was 10 for 10 on the left to right putts left-handed within 20 feet and 7 of 8 on the right-handers inside of ten feet. He made 6 birdies left-handed and 4 right-handed for a grand total of ten birdies. He went on to win 3 more times in the next 10 months giving him 4 wins in less than a year. Proving once and for all, switch putting works at all levels, including the highest level in the game of golf, the PGA Tour

From this point in time Switch putting was no longer just an obscure radical putting theory, but a proven method of putting at all levels of the game of golf. 

While I was rummaging through some old articles for the Magic Putter website, I came across a couple of quotes that I found quite interesting. These quotes are from the Sunday morning after Notah Begay shot a new course record 9 under par 63 to take a 4 shot lead in the Reno Tahoe Open. The quotes are from Tom Scherrer who hit all 18 greens in regulation and was in second place after shooting a 3 under par 69. “Scherrer said he was not surprised to see Begay’s score” a 10 birdie, 9 under par 63, which was posted while Scherrer played the 14th hole. This was because Notah Begay had broken 5 or 6 course records the previous year on the Nike tour, including his incredible 13 under par 59. This was after a very successful collegiate and amateur career which included bettering the all-time NCAA Championship record by shooting a 10 under par 62 on one of the most difficult courses in Texas, Stonebridge Country Club. Tom turned to his playing partner Jonathan Kaye and said; “This guy can shoot some crazy rounds, I wish he would tell me his secret” 

I was there and witnessed every shot and every putt. Switch Putting was the secret to Notah Begay’s magical low score

Tom hit 18 greens with 15/2 putts and 3/1 putts = 33 putts.
Notah hit 14 greens with 4-2 putts and 14-1 putts = 22 putts. 

The key to Notah’s record setting round was making all 10 of his left to right putts inside of 20 feet putting left-handed. That was the only thing he did differently from the rest of the field.  He made all his left to right putts and a couple of straight putts with his left-handed putting stroke. His 4 misses were right-handed on the right to left putts. Notah’s switch putting gave him the ability to aggressively attack the hole with very little fear of ever three putting.  Putting left-handed from the low side of the ball on the left to right putts, Notah was able use the slope to his advantage to make all of his putts spin toward him and the hole. It was one of those rounds where he rolled the ball so pure that every putt seemed to have perfect line and perfect speed, especially when he putted from the left side. 

Switch putting was the secret to Notah Begay’s Magic.

 

 

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