U.S. Open Johnson Putt

U.S. Open Johnson Putt


June 22nd, 2015, 4:55 pm #1

Okay, so Dustin Johnson missed a 12'4" putt and was left with a ~3' comeback putt. He must have known that it was a left-to-right slope based on how it tailed off on his first putt, but then he pulled it straight left and you could see it in his stroke!

Why did he do this? Was it a subconscious death wish? Or was it just nerves and his brain was separated from his body due to disappointment after the first putt and the adrenaline surging through his body causing an inability to make a proper stroking decision? Puzzling.....
Last edited by aceputt on June 24th, 2015, 1:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 24th, 2015, 1:36 pm #2

Dear sammy,

Here is the video:


First, on the 12.4-footer, DJ played too much break. The stroke looked ok for line, with just the merest suggestion of a push. A push is a natural reaction to a ball-below-the-feet setup, especially if one non-consciously adds speed to the putt at the last minute, as is also quite usual for golfers. I didn't see much extra speed in the thru stroke -- a bit, but nothing catastrophic. The ball simply went about 1 foot too far for a well-controlled putt, but that's not horrible pace.

The putt flattened out near the hole and the break stopped happening. That is because DJ was standing on a hump with the ball below his feet and the general slope was downhill, but the hump confused the read. The hump petered out back into the basically flat slope downhill so that the flat slope took control along a region slightly left of the fall line thru the hole down the flat slope. Once the ball broke off this hump and got onto the flat downhill slope, the fall line took over. As it happened, the petering-out margin off the hump pretty much paralleled the fall line thru the hole for most of the way downhill from the ball position, except the hump sort of rounded to the left a bit as it got nearer the hole. This was a double-breaking putt with the second break unfortunately nearly straight. That means the correct read has to come off the hump at a distance from the cup and on a path over the flat downhill slope so that any breaking on the second part of flat downhill slope in relation to the fall line thru the cup is correct.

The direction the ball exits the hump in relation to the fall line thru the cup determines the break the ball experiences once off the hump and onto the flat-downhill slope. The flat-downhill slope has many parallel fall lines, and only one thru the center of the cup, and the ball WILL feed onto one of these fall lines, so the trick is getting the ball to feed onto the correct fall line. The edge of the hump appears to have been offset from the cup fall line and parallel to this by perhaps a foot. The "rounding" of the hump to the left a smidgen nearer the hole means that the off-line exiting the hump on this rounding aims more to the left than the exit lines further up the edge of the hump. DJ's ball came off the hump, crossed the margin, and fed onto a fall line that was 1/2 a cup outside the edge of the hole and so 1 full cup offset from the fall line thru the hole -- too far left coming off the hump, since it came off the hump in the rounding area and not before, further uphill.

Based on the point when the ball straightened out, about 2-3 feet uphill from the cup, the correct path off the hump should have been angled towards a spot above the hole near the top edge of the cup. The correct curve off the hump, then, is the trick, and the answer is "less uphill over the hump than Johnson actually played." The ball should have had less involvement with the hump and exited the hump farther uphill from the hole. This partly explains his slight "push" as he probably instinctively and non-consciously had a last-minute change of heart about his start line being too high, so he slightly pushed his putt to make a lower curve across and off the hump. Basically, this is a very tricky read, but Johnson was not very organized or aware or committed. Pretty usual for Tour pros reading tricky putts, and not really attributable to pressure.

The CORRECT way to read a putt like this is to stand below the hole and sort out the final 1-2 feet into the cup and then work backwards to the exit off the hump to find the correct exit point for the read, and then work up along the hump back to the ball to sort out the start line into the hump so that the exit trajectory is correct.

Any time the ball travels downhill to the cup, the golfer is well advised to stand below the hole and sort out the final segment of the putt first and then work the surface contour back from this "outcome determinative" path to the ball.

If DJ had been mindful, he would have STARED at the miss as it got near the hole and went by, trying to learn what he needs to know about the comeback. Instead, he "reacted" by standing up and drifting backwards to his right and his mouth came open in disbelief so he could breathe thru his mouth, and his mouth stayed open until he actually bent down to aim the line on his ball for the second putt. That's a sign of a mind that is in neutral. What he should have done was WATCH the putt as it neared the hole and then went past, gritting his teeth or biting his lip in determination about the comeback. But he was stuck in neutral fixed on his miss.

The ball straightened out when it got to within about 2-3 feet of the hole and then stayed straight passing the hole on the left for another 2 feet or so and then trickled slightly to the right. When the ball passed the hole, it was one cup out left from the left edge of the cup (in relation to the ball's direction), and when the ball trickled right at the end 3-3.5 feet past the hole, it trickled about half a cup to the right. The ball appeared in the final 3-3.5 feet past the hole to be slightly breaking to the right, with the fall line thru the cup aiming more or less back at the ball where it stood on the 12.4-foot putt.

That all means the next putt is moving over basically flat ground straight up the fall line or breaking only slightly left or right towards the fall line, depending on which side of the fall line the ball is actually on. That's why it's critical to WATCH the putt go by the hole. Having a sense BEFORE the putt of how the fall line thru the cup aims across the green uphill is a BIG HELP, and then watching the ball go by the hole, the golfer has to decide whether the ball stops on the left or right side of the fall line or directly on top of the fall line, for the comeback putt.

Since the ball passed the hole on the uphill side to the left as it came downhill, the fall line thru the cup was to the right of the ball. And with the ball breaking ever so slightly to the right past the hole, that indicates the surface past the hole is not really flat as it looks. Based on the fall line thru the hole, the ball passing the hole should be rolling either straight or breaking slightly to the LEFT. So that means the surface past the hole has some more HUMP that came into the general situation that pushed the ball to the right a bit. That's pretty confusing, so you have to CAREFULLY examine ONLY the surface between the ball and the hole for the comeback: flat or not?

Since the ball appears to have rid itself of any hump contour, the surface from ball to hole was basically flat and uphill. Then the question reverts to whether the ball sits on the left or right side of the fall line. Given the directional aiming of the fall line thru the cup, this answer is -- the ball sits on the right side of the fall line headed uphill back to the cup.

The correct start line for this second putt is either straight or inside right. The fall line thru the hole is parallel to the fall line thru the ball, and the ball fall line is offset from the hole fall line 1/2 a cup. So the aim off the ball fall line is a slight angle to the left of the ball fall line. At a minimum, the start line aims at the right edge of the cup, so the trigonometry of this aim is 2.125" / 42" is the tangent of the triangle from ball to right edge and from ball along the ball's fall line 42" to the distance of the cup 2.125" to the right of the cup's edge. The ARCtangent of this tells the ANGLE to aim the putter face off the ball's fall line to the left side of that line: 2.9 degrees. That's the MINIMUM aim off the ball's fall line. If the target is inside right, then the ball is offset from this target 3.2" and the angle of aim is 4.3 degrees left of the ball's fall line.

Because the ball is on the right of the hole fall line, it is reasonable to suspect a tiny bit of break right-to-left, but not much -- the comeback putt is slightly uphill. So right edge? Inside right? Straight? Those are possible start lines. The wise pick is inside right.

It is difficult to tell the slope. For the long putt, the ball was below his feet and there was a slope that petered out so that once the ball broke off that sloped area (to the left of the hole headed downhill), the putt straightened out. Looking at the slope when the ball was 3-3.5 feet below the hole, extending the hole-ball line further out to 8.3 feet and attempting to compare the elevation of that spot of grass to the elevation at the bottom lip of the cup, my guess is that the slope is about 2%.

The target for a putt from 3.5 feet on flat 2% slope is a spot 3.5 inches up the fall line, assuming the green speed is not crazy fast. And if the green speed is a bit fast so the target higher, the counter is that the uphill putt runs a bit faster so the target is lower, and that's probably a wash.

The X shape then would have the legs of the X cross at a spot 3.5 inches up the hole fall line measured from the center of the hole, and the legs would each run along each side rim of the hole, grazing the edges. With that X, any ball INSIDE the two legs below the hole would be played INSIDE the hole. Roughly speaking, straight down the fall line thru the hole 42 inches away, a perpendicular line left of this 25 inches and right of this 25 inches (actually an arc 42 inches in radius swinging left 25" and right 25" of this fall line to intersect with each leg of the X), describes all putts that are played INSIDE the hole. Balls to the right of this 42 inch line are played inside right to some degree.

So the second putt correct read is inside right or at most straight. DJ played left edge. That's completely wrong, expecting the putt to break slightly to the right when the ball is actually on the right side of the fall line thru the hole and will break left towards the fall line.

DJ took a considerable time aiming the line on his ball for the next putt. When he set up to this aimed line, he clearly took the trouble to match the putter face to the way he aimed the line on the ball, and that was to the left edge. His stroke did not look like a pull, so that stroke confirmed his aim and read was to the left edge. The pace was fine, so he did not "blow the ball thru the break". He just read the putt as a left edge putt, and that was incorrect. The ball did not break much, but if it did, it broke to the left also, as one would expect putting from the right side of the hole's fall line.

This again confirms that the correct read and aim was inside right or straight.

So the first putt DJ played too much break because he didn't see how the putt would straighten out as it neared the hole. That is a failure to see the contour correctly and accurately. If he had read the putt from below the hole to see how to come off the hump shape, he would have gotten a better read with less total break left to right.

The second putt was also a mis-read, but this time it was worse than reading too much break, as that is at least reading the correct direction of break. On this second putt, he completely misunderstood what the ball was going to do in relation to the fall line and in light of how it rolled past the hole.


Geoff Mangum
Putting Coach and Theorist

PuttingZone.com -- over 200 Certified PuttingZone Coaches teaching in 21 Countries Worldwide and growing strong!
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Last edited by aceputt on June 24th, 2015, 2:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.