In the Feb 2006 issue of the Australian Golf Digest there is an article on Stewart Cink's putting streak of 351 holes without a three-putt.
The stats are:
Total putts 562
Total distance of putts 1,116 feet
Total one-putts 134
Longest second putt 6' 5"
Total score during streak 12 over
Most putts during a round 32
Fewest putts during a round 26
% of time making par or better from off the green 52.1%
On the face of it a streak of 351 holes without a three-putt seems excellent. But how good is Cink's putting from these stats?
The average length of putt is 1.985 feet (1,116/562)
I remember reading on your site that Loren Robert's had an average closer to 7 feet.
I wonder if you could review the stats and give your assessment. Incidently Cink's head position puts his gaze down his cheeks. How good can his aim be?
As usual, stats designed to market tour pros to the golfing public are misleading. Stats that are designed to inform about performance would be a lot better.
Stewart has recently fallen somewhat from his peak putting stats. Even so, he doesn't think much about a 3-putt streak, as shown in this interview:
Q. Third hole you had a 3 putt?
STEWART CINK: Yeah, I hit it about I'm sorry, what?
Q. You had quite a streak going.
STEWART CINK: Somebody reminded me a couple of days ago that I had a streak going. I don't care about that kind of streak. That doesn't mean anything, because the stats are misleading, when you talk about a ball being an inch off the green. To me that's a putt. I've 3 putted off the green a couple of times like that. More importantly to me, I was kind of disappointed in the 3 putt that helped me make bogey. The third hole is probably the easiest par 4 on the course. I did hit in the rough there and had a pretty tough lie, but was able to get it on the green, but to then throw the shot away
Q. Is this the toughest you've faced in terms of putting?
STEWART CINK: Not that difficult at all. They're not scary fast. Augusta is a lot scarier than here, when you have your ball on the green. The problem with these greens is when you miss a little bit, you roll off the edge, then that's when it becomes scary.
Q. What's it like to have a reputation as such a great putter in this competition in particular?
STEWART CINK: Well, I'm proud to have a reputation like that, if that's the case. It probably adds a little bit of expectation and pressure on me just because everybody expects me to make everything and if I don't, then, "Oh, no, the great putter missed."
I can handle that. I missed some putts this week and I've made a few putts this week. You know, putting is a day-to-day thing, hole-to-hole even. And Ryder Cup puts a lot of stress on your mind and your body and usually the putting stroke is where it comes out first.
I would love to be over the putt that means the Ryder Cup is going either way because I have a lot of confidence in myself. You know, but as far as the way that -- having a reputation like that affects your play here, this course is so challenging from tee-to-green, you know, you don't really even think about your putting until you're actually on the green.
When I heard I had gone 351 holes without a three-putt earlier this year, I laughed and said it probably meant I had missed a lot of greens and chipped close for pars. But now that I think about it, you can't go nearly 20 rounds without three-putting unless you've found a stroke you can count on -- and that's what matters most on the greens.
In putting, speed and line are the two things that immediately come to mind. But when it comes to avoiding three-putts, other variables come into play. For instance, hitting your iron shots close to the hole, or hitting longer drives so you have shorter irons into the greens. Bombing it off the tee or stiffing your irons will help, but when you get right down to it, lagging long putts close and knocking in the short ones is how you'll most quickly lower your scores. If you follow my simple tips, I think you'll see your number of three-putts drop. The first thing you need is trust in your putting stroke. So before every round, hit some putts to get used to the speed, but also work on grooving your stroke.
1. Downhill: Downhill putts, especially the big breakers, have two parts: your putt and then gravity's putt.
2. Uphill: Uphill putts, particularly those to a second tier, are all about distance.
3. Drill: Testy four-footers are the ones that can make or break a round. When I was at Georgia Tech, former golf coach Puggy Blackmon used to make us do this tee drill before we could leave practice.
4. Why I tried the belly putter: Belly putters encourage a solid stroke that releases naturally with no extra effort.
When his streak ended at 351 holes (just shy of Brad Faxon's 362-hole streak, the best since 2001 when Shotlink started recording), Cink credited his improved mind about putting with his performance:
Cink, who has used a 47-inch belly putter for the past three years, but he thinks the key to good putting is more in the mind than the mechanics.
"In putting, it's such a battle mentally, you're battling yourself, you're battling your nerves, basically you're battling the outcome," said Cink, who finished as the best putter on the PGA Tour last year, "I'm prepared to accept the result of any putt I hit whether I hit a two-footer and make or miss or a 50-footer and make or miss.
"Being able to adjust my attitude to where I'm truly prepared for any result has helped me immensely because I'm not fearing the miss. ... Instead of trying to battle through fear, I back away, discern where [the fear] is coming from and hit a fear-free putt."
This mental saga began after the 2001 US Open choke, where Cink missed a very short putt to join Retief Goosen in a playoff. Gone in 18 inches: Cink misses out on Open playoff, USA Today, June 17, 2001. He subsequently started sessions with Dr Preston Waddington, a south Florida psychiatrist, to address his self-image and fears of judgment by others in golf (Stewart Cink takes the talking cure with Preston Waddington to get over his fear of missing putts, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, FL, 30 Mar 2003). Regarding his 2001 Open miss, he says:
"That was the result of a long line of putts when I didn't forgive myself when I made a mistake," Cink says.
Forgiveness releases a lot of pressure, and in Cink's case it helped him become the best putter on the PGA Tour. He finished first last year in putting, averaging 1.723 putts a hole to improve from 2003 when he was fifth at 1.728. In 2001 he was 85th with an average of 1.768.
"I learned a lot about my fears and what they can do to you," Cink says. "If you let your putting determine how you feel about yourself, you'll start missing putts. I realized there's not a lot of correlation between the golf ball going in the hole and what you think of me."
What Dr Waddington teaches Cink in weekly phone sessions is that the stuff golf psychologists teach is not good enough -- "staying in the moment" won't get rid of the fear of judgment, of comparison with other golfers, of exposure of hidden weaknesses. Instead, the golfer has to "get a life -- golf's not that important." The end result is, as Cink notes, not fearing a miss:
Sometimes he'd see himself on Golf Central. A tall man with a graceful swing. No swagger, but confident-looking. Cink would stare at the screen as if he were watching a stranger. Where was the despair? Where was the fear? "I felt as if I was yipping putts," Cink says, "but on TV it looked silky smooth." Maybe, Waddington suggested, he needed to stop thinking of himself as "a golfer" and start thinking of himself as "a person that's out there hitting golf shots."
"A golf shot simply doesn't mean that much," says Tour pro Ben Crane, another Waddington patient. "When I look at Stewart, I see a man who has a great relationship with God, who loves his family and is a role model. Guys like him give the Tour a good name."
Waddington once put the question directly to Cink: "A two-foot putt -- is that something to dread and fear?"
Answer: Not if you have a life. Cink helps his kids with their homework, drives them to school in the morning, takes them to hockey practice. He unpacks boxes at Spoiled Sport, a women's athletic wear shop that [wife] Lisa started with two friends. A neophyte skier, he wears out the blue slopes at Beaver Creek and Steamboat Springs in Colorado. "I call him the Ski Nazi," Lisa says. "When he gets into something, it's a total obsession."
On the course Cink tries to be "the person hitting golf shots." He is less target-bound than he used to be -- because, as he puts it, "when you're target-oriented it's real easy to start anticipating results, to worry about where the ball is going. I try to concentrate on the swing, not on trying to control the ball to infinity."
By year's end Cink was $4.5 million richer, fifth on the money list, ranked 10th in the world and -- get this -- the Tour leader in putting average.
He won't say he owes it all to therapy -- switching to a belly putter obviously helped, and he has a pretty capable swing shrink in Butch Harmon -- but Cink no longer walks the fairways as if he thinks they might be mined. "Now when I'm over a two-foot putt, I'm prepared to make it or miss it," Cinks says, "and if I miss, I know it's not because I'm not a good enough golfer to play on the PGA Tour. It's because two-footers are sometimes missed."