Its putting, of course. How many guys/gals have we heard about now lets see, theres Ben Hogan, theres Sam Snead, theres Arnold Palmer, theres Tom Kite, Nancy Lopez, Craig Stadler, Mark OMeara, Tom Watson all once were deadly rollers, but when they begin getting on in years, voila ' they had to face the deflating realization that they no longer could get the ball into the hole.
Some managed to turn it around. Bedeviled by a faltering stroke, they turned in desperation to a radical grip. They turned the right hand around on the club and now utilize the Claw, the Saw, the Paint Brush ' whatever you prefer to call this weird-looking sweep of the ball.
You score better if you one-putt vs. two-putt ' of even two-putt vs. three-putt, said Kite in a sudden flash of brilliance. Its amazing! Its a great concept!
Kite was one of the surest of all putters until he reached his mid-40s. And then he was dismayed to discover the ball wobbling everywhere but toward the hole. He plodded along in misery until May of this year, when at age 54 he turned in desperation to the whacky grip.
Toms wife, Christy, had been giving him subtle messages for a year. She had placed pictures of Chris DiMarco using the Claw grip in Kites exercise room at home. Kite steadily resisted until the sad results of a Champions Tour event in his home town of Austin. He didnt break par in either of the final two rounds at the Kinkos Classic. At that point, he decided he would use a shovel for a putter if it would help.
I just putted horrifically, he said. It was the straw that kind of broke it. I finally said, Ive got to do something.
But when you see guys like Stadler and Mark OMeara have such great success with it, after putting so poorly for so long, it gives credibility to it. Finally I just picked something up and found something that seemed semi-comfortable.
That sounds startlingly similar to something Stadler said.
I had putter issues beginning about 89 or 90, said Stadler. I was a wonderful putter in my teens and early pro career. But about late-80s on, the putter was always prone to go south. About three or four years it just stayed there, and it didnt come back.
He, like Kite, changed only when he became desperate, clutching the putter with this zany grip.
Its made a world of difference, because I was late 90s, 2000 I was almost 32 putts a round, he said. Ive got that down to about 29.5. So youre talking about 10 shots a week in a four-round tournament.
I was standing over it from 4, 5, 6 feet and trying to figure out which side I wanted to miss it on, he said. And the odds were pretty good that it would be one or the other.
I was missing cuts by two or three, said Stadler. You cant make the cut, you go to $5,000 from $100,000 in a hurry.
The upshot? Stadler is now the No. 2 putter on the Champions Tour.
OMeara? Yes, him, too.
You're talking about a guy who stood there on the 18th green at Augusta National four or five years ago (when he won) and made the putt, he said. But to be honest, early in the week at Augusta that year in '98 I still had a little bit of yip in my stroke.'
It got steadily worse, and OMeara watched the misses in disbelief. He tried every putting device he had ever heard of on the putting green. And ' he discovered he froze on the course each time he was over a putt, blocking the ball to the right side.
Finally, at the Father-Son tournament last off-season, his coach ' Hank Haney ' convinced him to change.
He said, I want you to put your right wrist right on the putter like that, remembers OMeara.
'I can't do that,' he protested.
'No, no. Do it.'
I said, I can't, that looks so bad. I'm such a conventional guy, I just cannot do that.
He says, Listen, can I ask you a question? I said sure. How are you putting right now?
I said, Terrible. He said, Well, why don't you just try this? Maybe it will help.
So, all right, I tried it, and even though it looked goofy and I was a little conscious about it, all of a sudden, no yip in my stroke. Played in the pro-am with Tommy Roy of NBC, I was rolling them 20 feet. I'm like, You've got to be kidding me, where is this coming from?
Makes you wonder why the whole world hasnt changed. Looks weird, feels weird, it IS weird. But it propels the ball into the hole. And, like Kite says, one putt is better than two, two is better than three. So just grab it like a crazy man and shut up. Then, watch the ball roll into the hole.
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