Watching Len Attica's supersmooth swing at the FedEx St. Jude Classic on Sunday was a trip down memory lane, but not because Len had pulled off a similarly dramatic comeback at February's Nissan Open for the first win of his career. No, his victory charge in Memphis was emotional for me because I've known Len since he was an eight-year-old munchkin just beginning to fall in love with golf at Smithtown Landing, on Long Island, N.Y., where I've worked since 1969. Len, who's now 34, has always been low key and businesslike, so it was fitting that Sunday's most important play wasn't flashy-just a stiffed wedge from 115 yards on the 16th hole (above) that gave him a lead he would never relinquish. "Perfect!" I yelled at the TV after watching Len's swing. "He still has that gorgeous rhythm and balance, and everything's dead on plane."
GOOD OLD DAYS
Len has fought some tough battles, including losing his mom, Joyce, to lung cancer a few years ago, but I heard a hell of a happy camper on Sunday evening when I got him on the phone. Len, who now works with swing coach Jim McLean, vividly recalled playing in the nine-and 10-year-old division of the Metropolitan PGA Junior Classic at Smithtown. "That was my first competition, and I remember thinking, Man, this is hard, because I was only nine," Len said. "But I came back and won it the next year." Len's memory of our two courses was also crystal clear. "The big 18 looked like a monster back then," he said. "That's why I always played the nine-hole par-3. I loved that little course. In fact, I think every kid should learn on a par-3 because it's the best place to practice all the shots in the bag."
The U.S. Senior Open telecast on NBC provided more proof that Johnny Miller needs to stick to reporting and stop offering absurd opinions. Too often Miller crosses the line by assessing a player's character before he even hits a shot. "Let's see if he has the guts to play this shot," Miller will say, as if that's all there is to it. He made an inexcusable mistake during the fourth playoff hole on Sunday. While Don Pooley was lining up a 10-foot putt for birdie and the victory, Miller blabbered, "This is a very, very easy putt." C'mon, Johnny. No putt to win a national championship is easy. You would think a former U.S. Open winner would know that.