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A Sight For Sore Eyes
Al Barkow
July 13, 1998
Once Gil Morgan compensated for his faulty vision, he saw his career take off
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July 13, 1998

A Sight For Sore Eyes

Once Gil Morgan compensated for his faulty vision, he saw his career take off

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"I began thinking about the Senior tour four or five years ago," he says. "I was a little anxious about my physical condition, my shoulder, and saw it as a now-or-never chance to become financially secure. I wasn't aware of the precise statistics, but I knew that a very high percentage [87%] of the wins on this tour come from golfers between the ages of 50 and 55. I figured when you come out, you have a five-year window to make it big, maybe more depending on swing type. Frankly, I think my swing fundamentals are good enough that I may have a 10-year window, if I can stay healthy."

Vossler takes him even farther. "It wouldn't surprise me if he stays on top until he's 70," he says. "He can win $20 million out there. He has those Pop-eye arms, has never smoked or drank, eats properly and has as good a swing as it gets. The only thing that could stop him is his shoulder. He doesn't talk about it much because that's his way, but he has had more than a little pain there. You'll find he's at his best in the summer. The heat helps. I've been telling him for years he should move to Arizona or Palm Springs, where it's warm in the winter and he can practice. But he likes it where he is in Oklahoma."

What most accounts for Morgan's success on the Senior tour is his putting. It was what kept him down on the regular Tour and would have on the over-50 circuit, too, if not for a kind of divine intervention. Norman recalls that even back when he and Gil were teenagers, Morgan's father was after his son to practice putting and chipping, but like most sweet swingers Morgan found hitting shots more satisfying. Then again, he didn't practice his short game as much because he couldn't see the breaks and had trouble with the distance. No matter how long he practiced, the result was like getting a transfusion from a ghost—no blood. "I remember hearing about Nancy Lopez never leaving the putting green until she made a hundred three-footers in a row," says Morgan. "A hundred in a row! I'd have been there all night and wouldn't have gotten to 10."

Which brings us to the evolution part of the story. The revelation part, too. As noted, Morgan had developed a number of visual clues to deal with approach shots and had the yardage book for every course. However, he hadn't figured out what to do about the undulations on the greens. "There are no reference points to measure this," he says. Then, about three years ago, his close friend and adviser, Bill Carpenter, sent Morgan a video by short-game teacher Dave Pelz. The tiling that caught Morgan's attention was Pelz's comment that most golfers don't play enough break on putts, and that his statistics showed most players missed on the low side of the hole. Nothing could have resonated more with Morgan. "Yes, you could say a lightbulb came on," he says.

Morgan connected his vision problem with the Pelz finding. "I began to double and even triple what I saw through my eyes," he says. "If it looked as if I should play it two balls to the right, I'd make it four or even five. My confidence grew, and I began making more putts. I was no longer tentative. I became more aggressive." The game was on. Is on. Morgan has never practiced optometry, but until a year ago he kept current with the field and maintained his license to practice. It had always been a just-in-case thing. No more. Last year, when he made more than $2 million on the Senior tour, he didn't renew.

During all those years of indifferent putting, why didn't Morgan use his caddie to help him read the greens? "Well," he says, "I always felt that was my responsibility. Giving yardage and suggesting what club to hit is one thing, but reading putts is my deal. Frankly, I think it should be against the rules for caddies to help their players read greens."

How about reading that as a clue to a personality?

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