Donald Trumps All With Putter

By Rex HoggardJune 4, 2009, 4:00 pm
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DUBLIN, Ohio ' Great putters are born, not made. Or so the worn-out saw goes. Luke Donald would beg to differ.
When the soft-spoken Englishman made his way onto the PGA Tour he was thoughtful, athletic, driven and level-headed. But no one would have confused the amateur artisan for Ben Crenshaw. That is to say, at least statistically, the package was a gallon of milk short of a full bag.
Luke Donald
Luke Donald raced past the field with a hot putter Thursday. (Getty Images)
In 2004, Donalds third year on Tour, he ranked a pedestrian 133rd in putting average. It may have been good enough to keep his Tour card, but with 1.791 swipes per green with the flat stick hed never be dubbed the Boss of the Chicago Moss.
But, as his swing coach Pat Goss points out, Donald is nothing if not structured. He has lists for everything, Goss said on Thursday at Muirfield Village. The first item on Donalds list must have been improving his putting.
Each year since 04 Donalds play on and around the greens has improved dramatically. From 83rd (2005) to 22nd (2006) to eighth (2008) to first this year in putting average, his climb in the only stat that seems to count has been dramatic, if not dogged.
On Thursday at cool, windswept Muirfield Village, the man with the humble putting pedigree proved again that, like Ben Hogans golf swing, the putting stroke is found in the dirt, not the DNA, with his 20-putt, 8-under 64.
That red-card haul was three strokes better than his closest challenger. The thing is Jim Furyk, among a group of four at 5 under, wasnt sure he could have done much better, and Tour pros can always do better.
But then, when your frontrunner runs in 105 feet of one putts ' only two of which were longer than 15 feet (25 and 20 feet at Nos. 10 and 16, respectively) ' theres not a lot of room for improvement.
It was a couple of decent-sized ones (putts), but nothing major, Donald wildly understated.
Donalds caddie, his brother Christian, was a tad more exuberant between bites from a red Twizzler. Unbelieveable. He just loves these greens, Christian Donald smiled.
The Tour record for fewest putts for a round is 18 held by six players. But by and large those Herculean efforts occurred on golf courses with greens that are not nearly as sinister as Muirfield Villages.
There might not be as much slope as Augusta, but on a flat putt, they're probably quicker than Augusta, Donald said. Confidence on the greens breeds confidence. You keep making more putts. I think putting is very mental. Once you feel like you're a good putter, then it becomes easier.
This from a man who was more Julia Roberts than Loren Roberts with the putter when he bolted Northwestern.
Donalds short-stick transformation began right out of college, where he was a perennial contender due, largely, to his ballstriking and athleticism.
In college and amateur golf he hit it so much better than everyone else he didnt need to work on his putting, said Goss, Donalds coach at Northwestern. But on Tour he realized what carried him in college golf wasnt going to be good enough on Tour.
The changes were focused and gradual, like most accomplishments of any import.
Everything improved along the way. Scrambling, through the roof, putts per round, through the roof, just his entire short game has improved, said Goss.
As these things often do, the focus on Donalds short game led to less work on his ballstriking and last years wrist injury at the U.S. Open and subsequent surgery forced him to rededicate himself to the practice range.
Earlier this year Goss challenged Donald to be a two-thirds player.
Now weve gone back to ballstriking, Goss said. We want him to hit two-thirds of his fairways and two-thirds of his greens.
On Tuesday Donald and Goss worked together at Northwesterns indoor practice facility and something clicked. The session took just 45 minutes and even with a limited tune up for the Memorial, he arrived Wednesday and managed to play just nine holes and spent no time on the range, he was sharp tee to green in Round 1.
Hes also motivated this year after missing half of last season and Septembers Ryder Cup, something of a biennial rite for the young Englishman.
He watched every match from Valhalla, as painful as it may have been for a European, and texted Goss throughout the event with insight and observations. Ultimately it was the driving force through six months of rehabilitation.
He loves that event. It means the world to him, Goss said. It really drove him to improve and make sure he was a member of next years team.
Thats good news for European captain Colin Montgomerie. Ryder Cup skippers are always in need of good putters ' either of the natural or self-made variety.
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    Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

    Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

    Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

    “Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

    The problem was an expired visa.

    Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

    No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

    His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

    One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

    His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

    “Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

    He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

    “It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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    'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

    By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

    Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

    “The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

    The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

    “That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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    Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

    “They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

    “The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”