July 2, 2017: Tommy Fleetwood recently revealed that on his way to earning his third European Tour title at the 2017 HNA Open de France, he holed the winning put with his eyes closed.
Learning how to manage anxiety and pressure is one of the most demanding facets of the game.
There is no one size fits all answer, and just as each golfer’s swing is individual, so is the way players handle moments where they feel least comfortable on the course.
In a recent interview with putting coach Phil Kenyon, five-time European Tour winner and 2018 Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood revealed a unique coping mechanism he used to adopt when standing over putts that left him uneasy: Closing his eyes.
It was a strategy Fleetwood explored during the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, and one that continued even until his winning moment during the 2017 Open de France at Le Golf National, where he claimed his first Rolex Series win.
“In France I didn’t stroke it that well on the last day,” Fleetwood explained to Kenyon. “I putted alright but I wasn’t stroking it great.
“You know I used to do it, but I occasionally shut my eyes on putts. On that back nine there was a putt for birdie on thirteen, I shut my eyes on it from about five feet, and that one on the last I hit with my eyes shut.”
Acknowledging that there will always be putts which will leave you ruminating a little harder than others, Fleetwood further elaborated that it was something which used to help him stop overthinking or forcing particular putts, and allowed him instead to focus on his stroke.
“It took me away from trying to guide it into the hole. It’s an interesting one because you’re neither in to target or mechanics in a way.
“My putts were still fine but that one I wasn’t as comfortable over. It was a mechanism of not getting in my own way. I set up then shut my eyes and let myself hit it."
“I remember playing the U.S Open at Chambers Bay and the greens were really bumpy. I remember deciding that week that anything inside six feet I’m just going to shut my eyes and hit the putt. Your true stroke comes out because you can’t guide anything, so I played the whole U.S Open that week with my eyes shut over putts. Worked out pretty well."
For Fleetwood, who finished tied for 27th at Chambers Bay, it was a technique that let him feel freer over difficult putts for a period, and he admitted it was just an extended strain of the old adage of keeping your head down.
“For whatever reason I tried it one time in my life it helped me in those situations.
“There are certain putts that you never feel comfortable on, certain horrible little puts, and if I shut my eyes I knew I would stroke it freer, and you know it’s not always going to go in but I was probably giving myself a better chance by not looking. People say keep your head down, and it’s just an extra version of that.”