World Putting Champ

Tiger Woods

The mainstream sports media can’t resist being drawn to power. “Chicks dig the long ball” so says Nike ads, right? Jack Nicklaus’ power advantage over Arnold Palmer was big news back in the day. Greg Norman blasting his Tour Edition ball like a rocket launch from somewhere near Cape Canaveral caught a lot of attention a few decades later. John Daily’s prodigious length off the tee even with Balata balls and a Great Big Bertha driver was a 1990s sensation that ended in multiple major wins and with a fat guy in some bad pants. Tiger Woods was the next super star golfer to bring game changing power and length to the game of golf in ways that will never change. A generation after Woods brought the athletic part of the game to modern standards, there is a whole group of players who hunt for distances off the tee never seen before, be it Dustin Johnson or Tony Finau or specifically the likes of a Bryson DeChambeau.

 

The reality is – distance off the tee is a fraud if your goal is to shoot lower numbers.

Putting is where all of the strokes are when you are playing at the highest levels of the game.

Bob Rotella - Yes, hitting your driver longer can get you a shorter shot into a green or access to a Par 5 in two but that’s not ultimately the factor that gets your score so low. It is your putter.

Dr. Bob Rotella once asked me a good twenty years ago a somewhat trick question. From his basement, he asked me “Who on the PGA Tour do you most want to swing like?” I thought about the question for a while and responded with “Ernie Els (pre-knee surgery)”. Dr. Bob liked the answer stating that most people picked Vijay, Phil or Tiger who were long and crooked off the tee in that era. So I asked “what is the right answer” and Dr. Bob smiled. He retorted “Brad Faxon” for which I said “really, he’s not very long” and Bob said “have you seen him putt?” It all became evident then.

Taylor Made Golf ClubCliché suggest that 72 percent of all shots in golf are from 100 yards and in. The best golf lesson that I have ever gotten in golf was a long-term one also from Dr. Rotella. He had me abandon hitting ANY club longer than a pitching wedge (PW) for a YEAR and to focus most of my proactive on putting. While putting was the best part of my game both then and now – my handicap dropped to below 4… a lifetime low for me. The delta on the performance of your 7-iron or rescue club is meaningless when compared to your ability to hit it close from 105 yards and a smooth gap wedge. Bob goes deeper as to suggest that you actually will hit your driver or 5-iron better when you know that you are a threat to get it up and down from 100 and in. In your brain, you know that you are practiced and ready to get the ball up and down with a full wedge so that this feeling powers more/better/straighter drives.

Injuries have kept me from playing that well in recent years but a dedication to one’s short game will make them the World Putting Champ and there is a lot worse things your buddies at the course could call you.