Huston Ironing Out His Putting Woes
It got so acute Tuesday that John Huston played a practice round in Arizona using a cut-down, Nike 2-iron with which to putt.
We should all have problems like this.
The background: Tom Elliott, Hustons agent and close friend, says Huston hasnt been happy with his putting ever since he played the mini-tours years ago. This is fascinating when you consider the 42-year-old Huston finished first in putting average (1.713) on the PGA Tour last year.
It got so bad (at least in Hustons opinion) last week at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic that Huston banished his regular flat stick and putted with a 3-iron for the last 63 holes of the 90-hole event. And it wasnt a matter of a bent putter. Huston, keeping his offending but undamaged putter in the bag, needed 27, 28 and 27 putts, respectively, over the last three rounds.
My reaction: These guys are even better than we thought.
But by the time he got to Phoenix, Huston was still searching. With help from Elliott, the truck techs at Nike and a roll of lead tape, they fashioned the putter/2-iron contraption. Huston may actually put into play Thursday at the start of the FBR Open. It is 36 inches long with more than 100 grams of lead tape gobbed on to bring the swingweight up to an acceptable level. The loft is 13 degrees.
Among other things, Huston is fighting for a spot in the upcoming WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship near San Diego at the end of next month. Currently, he ranks 60th in the Official World Golf Rankings. He needs to stay in the top 64 to qualify. In 1999 he finished third in this prestigious event.
Speaking of the Official World Golf Rankings, Sir Michael Bonallack has replaced the late Mark H. McCormack as the new chairman of the rankings. McCormack founded IMG, the company that recently transferred its proprietary interest in the rankings to a separate company that will be called, not surprisingly, Official World Golf Ranking.
The rankings have been controversial from time-to-time. As Golfweek Magazine pointed out recently, Ben Curtis finished dead last at the 30-man Mercedes Championships earlier this month and jumped four spots in the world rankings.
But Matt Boucher, who will replace Tony Greer as the manager of the rankings system, told me Tuesday not to expect any changes in the determinant math under Bonallack. Everybodys smiling, Boucher said.
Meanwhile, back in Phoenix, Huston isnt smiling yet. Its just an experiment, Elliott says. But, he added, Huston putts with 3- and 4-irons all the time in practice rounds at home.
Part of the idea behind these sorts of radical departures is the notion that the focus needed to putt with an iron will help deter a player from worrying about the consequences of, say, missing a four-foot putt. Its the zen concept about the process being more important than the result.
Its the same reason why Brad Faxon will tell you one of the reasons for his putting success over the years has been the fact that he isnt afraid to miss a short putt. Its the same reason why, psychologically, a 15-foot putt can be easier than a six-foot putt.
Heres the scary part of all of this: How good on the greens will the demanding John Huston be if ever becomes satisfied with his putting?
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.