Dont look now, but an old name looks suspiciously like hes on the verge of erupting. Fella named Tom Kite.
Kite, et al, will be in St. Louis this week for the playing of the U.S. Senior Open at Bellerive. For many years he was the career leading money winner on the PGA Tour. He has struggled at times with his putter once he turned 50. And he messed around with the tried-and-true old swing. But he at last sees blue skies ahead.
The end of last year and the first part of this year, I really didn't strike the ball as well as I had been, Kite confessed.
The first 3- or 3-1/2 years on the Champions Tour, from tee to green, I was as good as I had ever been and my putting held me back there. Did not allow me to win nearly as many tournaments as I should have on the Champions Tour, could have on the Champions Tour. But now I'm putting very well and now I'm hitting the ball well.
The year 2002 was a Kite landmark campaign with three Champions Tour victories. Last year, though he couldnt claim a victory, he was still sixth on the money list.
But the beginning of this year, it all suddenly changed. He hung around the 15-to-20 position while he tried to adjust a few things in the swing.
About the last two months, I've really been playing quite nicely, said Kite. The swing changes that I was trying to make, I got a little off in my position. I was taking the club too far inside on the backswing and lost all my whip, and it took me a little while to get that back. So my swing is now in good position, so I'm hitting some very nice shots.
Five times this year, in what has to be considered an anomaly for one of the most consistent players in the history of the game, Kite finished outside the top 20. Problematic putting was slowly ruining a great Champions career. But he applied the tourniquet in a big way, changing putting grips to one that is decidedly unconventional - yet very effective.
I went to a version of The Claw, he said. I don't know what you call it, but sort of where I took the right hand and turned it upside down on the club. That really got my putting - I'm putting quite nicely again for the first time in probably five or seven years Im very optimistic about what's ahead the rest of this year and the next couple of years.
Kite actually has been toying with the grip since November of last year. Thats when he had just about reached wits end with the putting.
My son and I played with Mark (OMeara) and his son at the Father/Son tournament at the end of last year, said Kite, and I think that was the first tournament that Mark had tried it.
And to be honest with you, he was experimenting with a number of different grips at that time. So I don't know which one he finally settled on and has gone with. He's done very well. Craig Stadler has done well. Chris DiMarco, as we know, is a marvelous putter. There are a number of players that are using it now with some success.
Kite began using the grip towards the end of May. And ' its shown signs of working! Golf is enjoyable again for the 55-year-old veteran. But, hes stayed traditional in one area ' his selection of clubs.
I'm still hitting the traditional set right now, basically the same set I've played with since the late 70s and 80s, said Kite. Same driver, 3-wood, 5-wood and all the way down.
I'm sure the time will come (when he must go to more woods). It's coming. It's right around the corner. So far, I'm quite pleased with the way I've been able to play with my long irons.
Many of the elders are using the higher-lofted woods now, he said.
They are nice clubs to hit, especially on the Champions Tour where you are starting to get a little older, you are not quite as strong, not quite as big as you were and don't hit it quite as far, said Kite. It's a wonderful substitute for a long iron.