That fade became the source of Lietzke's enduring nickname—"Leaky"—in reference to the way his ball always leaks to the right. While the new aesthetics of his game didn't particularly please him, Lietzke couldn't deny that he could repeat the new swing with remarkable ease.
With his new game, Lietzke regained his enthusiasm and let his obsession kick back in. From his rookie year in 1975 through 1981, Lietzke was one of the Tour's iron men, playing nearly 30 events a year. He won eight times in that period, despite being an inconsistent putter who decided to go cross-handed when using that grip was considered an admission of having the yips. Lietzke didn't care what people thought, only that he was making more six-footers.
"My first seven years on Tour is when I fed my ego," says Lietzke. "I wanted to find out how good I was. I played all the majors, went overseas. I found out I was not a great player, but a good player. And that was enough for me."
The last time Lietzke really pushed for something in golf was the 1981 Ryder Cup team. He hadn't been a pro long enough to be eligible in 1977, and he was an alternate in 1979, so he was determined not to miss again. He had his best year ever, winning three times and finishing fourth on the money list. But the old bugaboo, burnout, was the price.
"I blew a fuse by pushing myself too hard," says Lietzke. "I played good golf the next year, but, man, I hated it. I actually considered retirement in 1982.1 don't like to even think about that time."
The clincher in pushing Lietzke to a lighter schedule came when he married Rose in 1981. Two years later Stephen was born. "I had always wanted kids, and I wanted to be as good a father as I was a golfer," says Lietzke. "Being a good father was the next step in my life."
In 1983, Lietzke left the Tour in August and for five months did not touch a club. When he came out for the Bob Hope Classic in January 1984, he withdrew after tearing cartilage in his rib cage in the third round and needed three weeks to heal. In only his second tournament back, the Honda Classic in March, he won.
"That was probably the ultimate test," says Lietzke. "I remember thinking, I can take five- and six-week breaks and not worry about losing my game. Gosh, I've got this thing figured out."
Lietzke understands those who contend he could have had a much better record if he would have played more. But he does not happen to agree.
"If I had continued to play 28 or 30 tournaments, the opportunities to win might have gone up, but the quality would have gone down. I'm sure I would not be playing, because I would have burned out."