I don't know how sound Gardner's theory is medically, but way back then he predicted that Sanders would have trouble in five or six years. Doug's swing is so compact it's become famous; the standard line is that Doug could swing in a telephone booth. If you accept Gardner's theory—and it may explain why Sam Snead and Julie Boros, with their big swings, have lasted so long—then Doug couldn't afford to lose any of his swing. Now he has. His swing used to be short and smooth, but now it's short and choppy.
Before my round, Doug asked me for a putting lesson. He was using three different putters on the practice green, and maybe four different grips and six different strokes. He is never going to make another putt if he doesn't stop fooling around. He used to have one of the best putting strokes on the tour, but now his confidence is shot.
Lionel Hebert's been a playing pro for almost 20 years, and he is still a fine golfer. He and his brother Jay and Gardner Dickinson are very close—they travel together and stay together—and they're three brilliant golfers who've won a bunch of tournaments. All the rest of us on the tour respect these fellows for both their records and their ability, but once in a while we like to tease them, in a friendly way, about how hard they work trying to find exactly the proper swing and proper shot for every situation.
Lionel, Jay and Gardner are fanatics on mechanics, on working on the swing, on experimenting. When they play a golf course, they feel they have to hit a perfect shot for each stroke on each hole. They've got to fade a little three iron in, or hook a little six-iron, or pinch a little wedge. And all three of them, except maybe Lionel, are almost embarrassed when they have good putting rounds. They don't think putting's an art like hitting picture shots. They're artists, all right, but over the years, if they'd just played their games and left all the mechanics alone, they might have run away from the rest of the tour.
Lionel works so hard on his game he always looks amazed when he makes a mechanical mistake. The other day, I heard, he took a two-iron, stepped up and hit the ball so fat he tore up the turf and splattered mud all over himself. His shot was right on line, but the ball fell 30 yards short of the green. With mud dripping from him and from his two-iron, Lionel shook his head. "I'll never learn to take the right club," he said.
On the putting green today, Gardner walked up and asked for advice. He thinks I'm the best putter on the whole tour. "Hey, give me something quick," he said. "I got to go out there and play and I got the yips so bad I can't make a putt the length of my foot."
"Let me see you hit a few," I said.
I watched Gardner putt and, as far as I could tell, there was nothing wrong with his stroke. In fact, he's got one of the best strokes on the tour. But I knew I couldn't just tell Gardner he was putting well; that wouldn't help him any.