Sam Snead used the side-saddle straddle for a year or two. Mike Hulbert and his half-year experiment with a one-handed grasp was certainly unusual. Bernhard Langer and his grab-the-forearm grip might have been the most successful for a while. But when Chris DiMarco trotted out The Claw in 1995, school was out on weirdness.
DiMarco didnt really care what he looked like. It obviously takes ironclad nerves to ignore the gaping mouths when one prepares to putt in such a manner. And in the fall of 2000, he blew everyone away when he knocked in a monotonous succession of rollers en route to his first PGA Tour victory. It was, incidentally, the inaugural SEI Pennsylvania Classic. And it was, incidentally, DiMarcos coming-out party after 10 long years as a professional.
DiMarco shot 68 and 67 the first two rounds, but was in second place by a stroke at the halfway point. The third round, though, he shot a 66 to grab a three-shot lead, and breezed home Sunday with a 69 to close out the field by a healthy six strokes.
And everyone suddenly knew Chris DiMarco, the man who looks like he is holding a 50-pound putter. Thats all right. DiMarcos unique grasp has him in the No. 23 spot among tour putters this year, and thats in the top 15 percent. Call him crazy, but be sure and call when theyre passing out the checks.
DiMarco never was a bad putter, even when he was putting with a conventional grip. It was just streaky, he says.
If it wasnt good, it wasnt good. And if it was good, it was good. I played out here for two years putting like that (conventionally), and I had a whole bunch of top 10s. But now, I putt good every week. If I have a bad week, I still putt good.
It started in the fall of 95 when he had played fitfully, finishing 174th on the money list and 105th in putting. He was on the putting green at a late-season mini-tour event with his Orlando neighbor, Skip Kendall, and mentioned how bad his putting had been. Kendall demonstrated the grip he had seen an amateur use once, and DiMarco doubled up laughing.
I looked at him and said, Youve got be crazy, recalls DiMarco. But I tried it, and it kind of resurrected me.
Two days later I went out to play and I had one of those putts I knew I was not going to make from four feet. I tried it and - lo and behold - it went straight in the middle, It was like, Wow, kind of reborn, rejuvenated. It was fun.
Armed with the crazy new weapon, DiMarco would finish third on the Buy.Com (then Nike) Tour the following year, 1996. And he has used it ever since that day, while Kendall still only fools around with it during practice.
DiMarco grips the club normally with the left hand, but puts the right hand below the left in a backwards fashion. The palm faces in the same direction as the putter-face.
Ive been doing it for a long time now, and Ive never putted normal again, he said. To me, theres nothing weird about it ' its just the way I putt.
There is certainly a good reason to it. It takes your right hand out. There's no hit with the right hand. If guys are struggling, that's what they struggle with. On tour, I know a lot of guys use it on the putting green to practice with and it's a good way to practice.
DiMarco doesnt look nearly so strange now with so many guys fiddling around with the grip on the putting green. Some have actually taken it out of the course.
I've had a lot of success with it, so guys will try something that has stuck, he said. If I would have come out and not played well, lost my card and moved on, I don't think anybody would have tried it.
But the win in Pennsylvania assured that he would be noticed. Hes won twice since then, including this year in Phoenix. But he will always remember the year 2000, he said immediately after he won No. 2, the Buick Challenge, in 2001.
The first one is the hard one. That one is hard and they are totally two totally complete wins, DiMarco said.
That's what you are practicing for on the putting green when you are ten years old. This is the putt to beat Jack Nicklaus back then, and now it is David Duval, one of greatest players now.
These kids are practicing 10-footers to beat David Duval. What can I say - it kind of makes what I have done all the years pay off.