September 08, 2003
Volume II, Issue 15
Tiger's Ex-Coach Number 1 ... again
Butch Harmon was again named the Best Instructor in the game by Golf Digest. The report is published annually, and this is the third year in a row that Mr. Harmon topped the list. David Leadbetter followed closely at number two, and Jim McLean was third. These three have held the top three positions since 2000.
In 30 years, Champion Tourney eligibility
The U.S. Amateur Championship was decided two weekends ago. Of all the golf coverage that weekend, this Amateur was far and away the most exciting. Winner Nick Flanagan beat number one ranked amateur, Casey Wittenberg on the 37th hole of the final. Flanagan is from Australia, the first Aussie in 100 years to win the U.S. Amateur. And perhaps the most telling sign of our times: both finalists were under 20 years of age!
What, no Brinks truck?
The PGA Tour is taking no chances these days with its most precious gem. Six marshals were imported from the Greater Hartford Open to walk with the Tiger Woods group because none of the marshals for the Deutsche Bank Open had experience of such magnitude. The six that were imported had walked with the Suzy Whaley group earlier this summer during the G.H.O.
The Americans are coming!
U.S. Solheim Cup Captain Patty Sheehan has completed the team by selecting Kellie Kuehne and Heather Bowie as her Captain's Picks. The rest of the team includes Julie Inkster, Rosie Jones, Angela Stanford, Kelly Robbins, Wendy Ward, Michelle Redman, Meg Mallon, Beth Daniel and Laura Diaz. The Solheim Cup will be played in Loddekopinge, Sweden, this year and is scheduled to begin September 12-14.
Annika is doing it again. Blazing the trail for women's athletics and golf in particular, Annika now will have two lines of Cutter and Buck apparel with her name attached. The first line is an athletic ensemble designed to allow for athletic movements and the swing of a golf club. The second line will be softer with a more traditional feel. Sorenstam will be working directly with Cutter and Buck in the design process.
All right, Duffer Dan, we know you can hit gargantuan drives and you never miss a green, but how is the flat stick treating you? It's a good bet even you short game specialists would like to polish up your stroke a bit. So let's get to work.
First lets determine what type of putter you are. There are two types: the Technician and the Feel Putter.
The Technician (Tom Kite) will have mechanically broken down the putting stroke into a complicated geometric equation of moving parts multiplied by velocity.
The feel player (Phil Mickelson) will just inherently know which way the green breaks and how fast it will be. Note: If this is your putting style get used to occasional three putts.
Which are you? Sure we have all felt zoned in with our feel and we have all tried to master the art of algorithmic putting, but which do you prefer? Once you know where you stand, don't sway from it. This is your natural ability as a golfer, and no person should dare to change his or her innate ability.
Now that we know what type of putter you are, we should concentrate on how you can get better.
What makes a good or bad putter better?
- Form — The best golfers in the world share many distinct similarities in their putting strokes: tempo, posture, ball placement, setup and stance. The next time you watch a good putter take notice of these things. Most good putters do not have a squared stance. Most place the ball in the middle of their stance or forward slightly. Most good putters have a confident grip (not fidgety). Most good putters extend their follow-through towards the hole.
- Feel — This comes from only one thing: practice, practice, practice. Feel in golf is another word for experience. The ability to feel the proper putting stroke comes from knowing what the proper putting stroke is. This, in turn, comes from practice. It is said that Phil Mickelson will not let himself leave the practice green until he makes 100 four footers in a row!
- Imagination — The ability to read a putt comes from one's ability to imagine what the ball is going to do after it is stroked. When standing behind the ball, you should be able to see the ball rolling toward the hole, imagining what it will do after you have started it on its way.
That's pretty much it. The ability to see the break in the green is totally dependent upon your imagination and eyesight! Knowing how hard to hit the ball comes from feel, which in turn relates directly to practice. Once you have these two things, and you have a form that you can repeat time after time, the putts will start dropping.
One last thing: be at ease on the green. Nervous hands make for off-line putts. Even when it counts, pretend it doesn't. If you miss, well there's always lawn bowling! Accept the fact that you are going to miss your share of putts. Take the pressure off having to make the putt, and your form and feel will fall into place.
Admittedly, I am no altruist, nor am I bound by some great value orientation that stems from biblical edict. However, since the last installment of Off the Fringe I have taken exception to the praising of two situations by my media brethren. Padraig Harrington and Ben Curtis both had uniquely significant life changes this past weekend during the WGC/NEC Invitational. Harrington's wife was home in Ireland about to give birth to their first child, and Curtis was married on Saturday night of tournament week. Both played the entire tournament.
Yours truly would never call into question the position of these fine gentlemen concerning their private lives — that's why they call them private. I do wish to call out the rest of the working media in those highly guarded PGA media rooms who felt so moved by these personal interest stories that they drew them in the best possible light. At the same time they were still foaming at the mouth to garner any information as it pertained to the trashing of Davis Love III or John Daly's personal tragedies.
The ancillary behavior of tour players should be fair game for us all. If a player curses in front of the camera, let the pundits run amuck. When Craig Stadler buries a three iron in some mulch, it's funny and opinion column worthy. When the personal lives of players on tour are permanently altered, however, there is a line which even a press badge should not have access to cross without invitation. I do hope that the PGA Tour Media Department and the Associated Press are taking note here. Let us not pander to the heathen instinct of muckraking within our ranks. Our game is steeped in value and integrity. Even if it is to a point a façade, it is a façade that fosters the good of the game.
Cranium granulation of the week
The Augusta National will again present new challenges! The 11th hole, which starts Amen Corner, will have new trees lining the right side of the fairway. This will create less bail-out room for players on the right and will force accuracy into the driving game (more souvenirs if you can keep your mouth shut). As a point of interest, however, I always wonder is it good to constantly be tinkering with the classic design of Augusta? Sure, while alive, Donald Ross peppered Pinehurst No. 2 with changes almost yearly to more greatly polish his precious gem. But, as great as Pinehurst is, it's not Augusta National. I am in favor of the change, but I am also in favor of Tom getting one up on that lil' pip-squeak Jerry one of these days!
So, looks aren't everything you say?
Annika Sorenstam did break through the threshold of the apparel industry and is forging ahead at "reverse-esophageal-inducing" speeds. However, she is currently still out-earned by the winless, enigmatic and highly downloaded Anna Kournikova. (For the record, the boss thinks Annika is hot and doesn't understand this observation, but then he's 57.) Furthermore, it was recently announced that Grace Park will be replacing the irresistible Gabrielle Reece as the poster girl for Nike Women's Golf. The "Graceful" Park will be displaying the swoosh from head to toe just like Tiger. As if I need another reason to watch the LPGA!
FLASH, Mickelson Wins!!!
Mickelson has long been revered for his gambling prowess and threw a little batting practice to The Akron Aeros, Triple-A baseball team. He bet the team that no one could hit a home run off his pitching. Not one Triple-A professional ball player could manage to hit one out of the yard on Lefty. Bets apparently ranged from $100.00 to $800.00. Oh, if only the story ended here...
The Triple-A Detroit Tiger's affiliate team, the Toledo Mudhens, will not be serving up "pine time" for golf's favorite whipping boy, Phil Mickelson. The surest bet of all was that as soon as Philly Mick tried out for a spot on the Toledo Mudhens roster, he simply would not perform under the pressure. Now Mickelson is saying that if he can just increase his velocity on the mound, he would not rule out trying out again for any team that would entertain the idea.
Message to Phil: try working on accuracy and flop shots a bit more there, Mick baby. Practice with the small white ball, not the bigger one with stitches, lest you leave us all in stitches! In case you were too busy to read the tale of the tape on yourself for this year, you have dropped out of the top ten in the world ranking, and the last time you hit a fairway was when you fell out of the cart to pick up your Twinkies! I kid because I care, of course. C'mon Phil, it's hard not to laugh at this idea. At least Jordan retired at the top of his game before becoming a media pony for a Triple-A baseball team.