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Golf Plus Q&A: Putting champ has technique all his own

Published: Wednesday, May. 2, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6C
Last Modified: Wednesday, May. 2, 2012 - 12:42 am

Mark Milligan won the Sacramento City Putting Championship for the second straight year Sunday at Haggin Oaks. He's not the first repeat winner – Jay Connor, Jack McCann and Jacob Summerhays, accomplished players all, previously went back-to-back over the 54 years of the annual competition – but Milligan is almost certainly the oldest and least conventional.

"I've developed a process that's as dependable as anything there is under pressure," he said.

It's hard to argue with someone who has thrust his name into the conversation of greatest putters in Sacramento history. And after thousands of hours of practice, he's willing to share.

– Steve Pajak

Your stroke has been described as one you wouldn't see in an instruction manual, yet you're clearly a great putter. What is it like and what is its evolution?

When I was playing competitively, I used to break down on 3-footers, especially under pressure. So I went after what was going to keep that from happening. I came up with a formula of equipment and technique. The equipment is a face-balanced, center-shafted putter. I had Ping make it 10 degrees upright, which is the legal limit. The more upright you hold your putter, the more of a pendulum stroke you can achieve. You can stay square to the target the whole way. I tuck my left elbow so I have to turn my shoulders to make the clubhead move. You get this control that's amazing and your club stays on the line so long.

Mechanically, what's most important?

Keeping a light grip, making sure my clubface is square and putting with rhythm.

Mentally, what's most important?

Doing my preshot routine the same every time.

Ever thought about giving putting lessons – renowned gurus Dave Stockton and Dave Pelz do pretty well?

I always thought it would be way cool to get on the Golf Channel and show them my program. I could teach my method. I would love to share my technique. I think it's something we as golfers owe each other – if we pick up something that helps us out, we should share that.

Long putters are all the rage – why not for you?

Long putters weigh a ton and you lose your touch. I don't care who you are. Even Adam Scott, he's going to fail. He's going to have to go back. They always do.

How often do you play?

I used to play enough that my wife didn't appreciate it. Now I play about once a week, if I'm lucky. I quit practicing anything other than putting.

What's the rest of your game like?

I'm a solid 9 handicapper if you take away my putter.

How do you do in money games – a guy who can make putts must win his share?

I do OK. I'm probably even over my lifetime. But you don't want to putt with me for money.

Do you have a go-to move after making a big putt, or is making them just ho-hum for you?

If you celebrate before the party is over, you're probably going to end up not wanting to party. The more like a farmer or a surgeon you are – no emotion – the better.

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