Huston Ironing Out His Putting Woes

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Huston, you have a problem. Sort of.
 
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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