Stadler won last week at the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, and he now has won $1,909,666. Thats a little more than $300,000 over the No. 2 man, ageless Hale Irwin. As the over-50 set gets ready to play the Kroger Classic this week near Cincinnati, Ohio, Stadler thinks he knows the reason why.
For the last decade of the regular tour, he had trouble rolling the ball into the cup. In 1999, for instance, he had dropped all the way down to 147th in the putting rankings. This week, following a brilliant putting performance at Pebble Beach, he was No. 1 on the Champions Tour.
I had putter issues beginning about 89 or 90, said Stadler. I was a wonderful putter in my teens and early pro career, pretty much up until the mid-80s ' pretty much relied on it because I hit the ball pretty much every which-way. Short game was always good.
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.
Hes done it by utilizing something that ' for him ' was pretty radical.
I changed to the paintbrush - Calcavecchia, claw, whatever you want to call it, he said. And the paintbrush is feeling more and more natural all the time.
Its made a world of difference, because I was late 90s, 2000 I was almost 32 putts a round. Ive got that down to about 29.5. So youre talking about 10 shots a week in a four-round tournament.
What was he last week? He averaged 26.7 for the three-round affair. Putting at that level is extremely tough to beat.
He recalls the difficult times at the end of his regular-tour career when golf wasnt much fun anymore. And it was because his putter was unreliable. He was taking too many putts.
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.
But Stadler this season is closing in on $2 million. And is largely because of his putter and his new grip.