Even though we all do it from time to time, there's really no excuse for missing a relatively straight four- to six-foot putt. Here's a visualization trick I use with my students to help take the anxiety out of these putts.
On a relatively straight (one that you can play inside the hole) four- to six-footer, I like to visualize a second hole along the same line as my putt, but only two or three feet away from the ball. A two-footer is a no-brainer, right? Simply align yourself to the imaginary hole and rap it in the back of the cup with a solid, aggressive stroke and a little extra speed. The putt should hold its line and pour into the center of the real hole.
If you're still having difficulties, you might find it helpful to also visualize a straight, hole-width road running from your ball straight through the imaginary hole, ending at the real hole. This should help build your confidence, improve your alignment and help you keep your putterhead accelerating straight through the ball along the proper path.
PGA professional Matt Swanson was honored with the 2004 Southern Texas PGA Teacher of the Year award. He operates Matt Swanson's School of Golf (www.swingpure.com) in Houston.