Notes Leftys Coach Brings Space-Age Technology


2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- The USGA measures the speed of greens at Oakmont with a stick called the 'Stimpmeter,' a device created by a Harvard graduate named Edward Stimpson who was intrigued by putts that rolled off the putting surface at the 1935 U.S. Open.
Dave Pelz brought far more sophisticated technology.
The short-game guru for Phil Mickelson looked like he was on his way to a construction site while walking with his client Tuesday in the practice round, carrying a brief case and attaching a tape measure to his belt.
Pelz is a former NASA scientist who has developed what he calls the 'Pelzmeter,' a contraption that contains a $150,000 computer chip to measure speed and slope on the greens.
The Stimpmeter, now used so often that it is part of the golf vernacular, essentially is a hand-held stick in which the ball rolls down the device and onto a relatively flat portion of the green. If it travels 12 feet, a green is said to be running 12 on the Stimpmeter.
Pelz' device is more of a box that stands about 18 inches high and uses levers to control the release of three golf balls. It measures not only speed but slope, and he says the accuracy is far superior to any stick.
'It's calibrated to the inch,' Mickelson said. 'I know what speed each green is.'
Pelz refused to share any of the readings, saying the information was for Mickelson only. Standing behind the second tee, Mickelson saw him talking to three reporters and came over to make sure everything was hush-hush.
Satisfied with that, Lefty turned amusingly sarcastic.
'I'd much rather use a stick created 71 years ago. Twenty years before NASA? Thanks. Great,' he said, giving a mock thumbs-up.
The situation really turned comical on the green, when two USGA officials showed up with a Stimpmeter as they searched for possible hole locations, and Pelz took out the 'Pelzmeter' from his briefcase and went to work.
It was Xbox on one side of the green, Atari on the other.
'He spent $150,000 on this computer chip, and it has a mathematic computation that allows him to measure greens on any surface regardless of slope and pitch,' Mickelson said. 'With his meter, it's calibrated to the inch.'
Mickelson shed some light on the findings, saying some greens were significantly faster than others -- without naming which greens.
'I had one as fast as 15.6 and one as slow as 11.2, and that's 4 1/2 feet of difference right there,' Mickelson said. 'It's important that I have that information to know going into these greens.'
Pelz and Mickelson had a spirited discussion with Tim Moraghan, the agronomist for the USGA, and later with Mike Davis, the senior director or rules and competition who sets up the golf course.
'His readings are so significantly different from ours that you almost had to think we were using different mowers,' Davis said.
But he's OK with his Atari.
Davis points out that some greens might be faster because they are elevated, more exposed to the sun (No. 3), or in a hollow, shaded by trees. He also said the Stimpmeter number is an average of all 18 greens.
'At the end of the day, it's played on natural grass,' he said.
Colin Montgomerie and his longtime caddie are history for now, and the three-time U.S. Open runner-up is hopeful some past history will help him.
Montgomerie didn't have time to arrange for another caddie, so he hired one from Oakmont.
The looper for the week is Bill Goddard, who has been at Oakmont for 49 years and caddied for Miller Barber in 1973. Barber was paired in the final round with Johnny Miller, who shot 63 to win the U.S. Open.
'He knows these greens better than anyone,' Montgomerie said.
Not lost on Monty was the year his regular caddie, Alastair McLean, had to skip the Masters in 1998 because of a bad back. He went on to tie for eighth that year, his only top 10 at the Masters. And he also pointed out that Ben Crenshaw continues to use a local caddie at Augusta National, and he's done quite well.
It's not like Montgomerie didn't have other offers. The first one came from the airplane pilot on his trip to Oakmont.
'I told him, 'I'll have to do well to beat your salary,'' Montgomerie said.
He then saw Lee Westwood walking by, and asked if he could join him for a practice round.
'I'm not caddying for you,' Westwood replied.
Tiger Woods will be playing in Pennsylvania for the first time as a professional at the U.S. Open, and he can only hope it goes better than the last time he played in the Keystone State.
Woods played the famed Sunnehanna Amateur in 1992 when he was 16, finishing in fifth.
'Allen Doyle beat me by about five shots,' Woods said.
Just his luck, Doyle is also at Oakmont this week as the reigning U.S. Senior Open champion.
Ernie Els and Tiger Woods have different philosophies when it comes to preparing for golf tournaments.
Take the famed Church Pew bunkers at Oakmont.
Woods was asked Tuesday if he has played out of the large bunker filled with strips of grass between the third and fourth fairways.
'No,' he replied.
Has he dropped a ball in the bunkers to at least see what the shot would be like?
'I don't really think that you should be practicing negativity,' he said. 'You're not going to place the golf ball there, and if you do make a mistake there, you just basically are going to wedge out, anyway.'
Els never found the Church Pew bunkers in five rounds when he won the U.S. Open in 1994, opting for a 2-iron down the fairway for position on No. 3, and keeping it well to the right on No. 4.
But he practices out of them to be ready.
'Absolutely,' Els said. 'That's what we play practice rounds. You hit all kinds of different shots. You never know what's going to happen under pressure. We kind of lose it sometimes.'
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