The Double Four Putt

Frank & Valerie,

What did you think about Rory McIlroy’s two four-putts this weekend at the BMW Championship?

Thomas, MN



Thank you for your question about Rory’s two sets of four putts on the same hole at the BMW Championship last week. We have reviewed the videos and come up with the same conclusion each time.

First, let me say it is hard to determine from a video what Rory was thinking or looking at before, during and after the putt – actually four of them—both on Saturday and Sunday. I am basing my comments on what I observed on TV and my experience teaching the fundamentals to very elite students and thousands of enthusiastic golfers wanting to improve. You can see video of Rory’s putts by clicking here.

However, an article on by Mike McAllister gives us some insight as to Rory’s thought process on Sunday: 

On Saturday, McIlroy four-putted from inside 5 feet. In Sunday’s final round, he four-putted from 19 feet, 2 inches, missing putts from 3 feet and 2 feet, 9 inches.

After missing his first putt from distance, McIlroy said his troubles on the 12th green the previous day crossed his mind as he stood over his second putt.

“Let’s not give any more shots away to this hole — that was what I said,” McIlroy recalled. “So I maybe put a little bit too much pressure on myself to hole the second putt.

“On the third putt, I’m thinking, OK, you don’t want to four-putt again.”

But he did.”

If Rory was a student of mine, I would suggest that he goes through his pre-shot routine on every putt. From the quotes above it is clear that on Sunday, Saturday’s four-putt was in his head and interfered with his thought process.

Following a consistent preshot routine, made up of physical and mental steps would help control such thoughts. Spending time to plan; prepare; and execute the putt every time is essential at the elite level of competition, as Rory well knows and has repeatedly demonstrated this season.

Secondly — and this is speculation because I don’t actually know what he was aiming at –  he may have been aiming at the hole, as a whole, rather than selecting a point to aim at on the back edge of the hole.

If we had a 10-foot putt to a hole 14-inches wide (equivalent to a 3 foot putt at a 4 ¼ -inch hole) we would be reasonably confident in making that putt, but would still aim at the center of the 14-inch hole – if it was a straight putt — not just the 14-inch wide zone.

Even when we drive to a wide fairway, we generally select a target point to aim at, rather than the whole width of the fairway and hope. If we can focus our minds on a spot to aim at it will generally result in a better and more precise result and the same applies to putting.

Third, Rory seemed to have lost his smooth rhythm and it looked like he was manipulating his swing path and not letting it flow through naturally. This is a technique some pros have adopted but it is inclined to affect the natural rhythm and the direction of the putt.

Thomas, these are a few comments which may or may not apply to Rory but we can all learn something from them to improve our short putts:

  1. Go through the same pre-shot routine for all putts to help control your thoughts
  2. Aim at a point on the back edge of the hole
  3. Don’t try to steer or control the putter path, let it take its natural path by rocking the shoulders  
  4. Make a natural, in-plane rhythmic stroke and
  5. Have enough confidence in your stroke to keep your head down through and after you have made the putt.

In his comments after his round, Rory said “At least I can laugh about it and move on.” This is extremely important. 

Hope this helps everyone learn from Rory’s double four putts this weekend.

Putt well,


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