[PHOTO: NurPhoto]

If professional golf taught us anything in June, it’s that no putt is a “gimme”. Rory McIlroy served as the most painful example at the US Open, while Akshay Bhatia served as the latest yesterday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Bhatia’s second-last putt of the week, which would have secured him a spot in a playoff with our own Cam Davis, missed from four feet, three inches (130 centimetres). But it was the putt before that, which came from 32 feet, that he’d much rather have back.

The 22-year-old was tentative on the greens for much of the back nine, leaving a number of putts short for safety reasons rather than aggressively going after the win. The strategy nearly worked up until the 72nd green, where his birdie effort to win left him with a longer-than-comfortable par effort just to tie. In fairness, bumpy, poa annua greens like the ones at Detroit Golf Club tend to get much slower as the day rolls on. While he did acknowledge that was a factor, he didn’t use it as an excuse.

Bhatia instead admitted something that probably produced a smile from former NBC analyst Johnny Miller – he was a bit nervous.

“I mean, it’s hard. You’ve got so much slope there so you don’t want to run it five, six feet by,” Bhatia said. “Yeah, just a little bit of nerves, honestly. I’m human.”

Nerves, Johnny. Nerves.

Johnny Miller jokes aside, it’s somewhat shocking to hear a player actually admit this. It used to be just Miller who would blurt it out, to the point that it became a running joke. But for a player himself to admit nerves got to him, that’s not something you hear every week. McIlroy, for comparison’s sake, made no mention of nerves in his post-US Open statement.

“It sucks, no other way to put it,” Bhatia said. “I mean, [it] just sucks.”

Nerves, of course, can be a good thing. It means you’re feeling something and you care. Bhatia has felt nerves before and won before – twice, to be exact – and both times in a playoff. He knows how to handle them. He’ll be just fine.