golfer is an anguished soul who has learned a lot about putting, just as an
avalanche victim has learned a lot about snow. He knows he has used putters
with straight shafts, curved shafts, shiny shafts, dull shafts, glass shafts,
oak shafts and Great-uncle Henry's old pool cue, which he found in the attic.
Attached to these shafts have been putter heads made of large lumps of lead
("weight makes the ball roll true," salesmen explain) and slivers of
aluminum ("lightness makes the ball roll true," salesmen explain) as
well as every other substance harder than a marshmallow. He knows he has tried
41 different stances, recommended by everyone from the club pro to a local
tea-leaf reader, and as many different strokes. But above all he knows he is
trapped. He can't putt, and he never will. He would like to bury his head in
the dirt and live the rest of his life as a radish.
If only, he
thinks to himself, I had the putting confidence, savoir faire, �lan and ability
of those touring pros. They win those big checks every week and wear those
flowered coats, beltless slacks and dinosaur-skin shoes. They must know how to
Well, listen to
this. When it comes to putting, nobody equals the pros for feelings of
insecurity, inferiority, ineptitude and plain old fear. Despite anything you
may pretend to have seen at tournaments, or on television, the pros are certain
they can't putt any better than the Rotary Club of Mineral Wells, Texas. Maybe
worse, they claim, maybe worse. And if you heaped up all of their theories on
the capricious craft, the mountain would awe Sir Edmund Hillary.
"Who told you
I was a good putter?" said Jack Burke Jr. at a recent tournament where a
number of pros were lured into discussing this touchy topic. "Man, I'm just
an average putter. I've had streaks. We all do. But I'm no superputter or I
would have won more tournaments."
Jack Burke has so
delicate a touch on the greens that tiny blades of bent grass have been seen to
quiver with delight at his approach. But you may consider his remarks
Virtually all of
the big-time pros have the same convictions about their putting. It's average.
It's streaky. And kindly refrain from inserting them into the same class with
Arnold Palmer (or Jack Nicklaus, or whoever just won a tournament).
It is one of the
vagaries of golf that while none of the pros wishes to acknowledge he is
excellent on the putting surfaces, he will steadfastly refuse to admit
mediocrity at playing from tee to green.
Of course that's
because the pros are all highly skilled athletes who have conquered the
sophisticated timing of golf through hard labor and experiment. They know how
to hit the ball perfectly under even the most savage conditions. And on those
peculiar occasions when the shot happens to veer off line it has merely
encountered cruel interference from that mysteriously unfair force which goes
around affecting the flight of golf balls.
some reason—wants to be known as a great striker of the ball," says Gary
Player. "Nobody wants to be called a lucky, one-putting s.o.b." And
nobody thinks he is. It was Gary who walked off the 18th after a televised
match with Arnold Palmer last year and complained dismally to a friend,
"From tee to green I was never better, never better. But I couldn't make a
putt, and that Arnold was knocking them in from 40 feet." Five minutes
later Player was gone and Palmer appeared. "I don't understand it," he
groaned. "Every time Gary reached for his putter the ball was in the hole,
and I couldn't sink a thing."
the man on the PGA tour who is winning the most money—in any given
season—usually carries the unflattering identification mentioned by Player.