Oh how the game has changed! Twenty years ago I would know 80% of the players advancing to the match play portion of the city championship (even back when it was 64 players) and now with 32 players advancing to match play, I know perhaps only 20% of the players. Why? because there are high school players and college players that have starting playing golf at a very young age, and thanks to the likes of the First Tee, golf has been more readily available to the younger generation.
Another change in the whole mindset of these younger players is they are not afraid or intimidated by anyone, of any age or with any resume. The knock however is that they do not play the game at the pace it was meant to be played at. As an example, yesterday playing in groups of four (two matches) at 10 min tee off intervals, the front nine took 2:40 minutes to play. I can assure you that I could easily play a match in a group of four in 3:30 max when all putts are not being holed. This has hurt the game in my mind, and continues to frustrate us that like to play at a brisk pace. Fortunately my opponent, Alex Franklin gets up and hits the ball without any undue delay. And when he is putting he has a very solid routine that doesn’t take several minutes to work through. And the result, he putts the lights out of it!
After a crushing defeat in match play, typically I am not very excited to write to you about my experience, losing in match play is perhaps more painful than any stroke play defeat. This is exasperated by the fact that I am perhaps driving the ball better than ever, but the new yips with the sidesaddle putter have me scratching my head. The different in this match was simply putting, on 5 separate times, Alex made longer putts on holes that I then missed the shorter putts, especially crucial 3 putts on #11 and #14. The killer was when Alex was 8 feet, and I was 5 feet on 16, where he made his putt and I missed mine. All I can say is my advantage off the tee was not nearly equal to his advantage on the greens, and the ultimate winner of this great championship will have a better short game than his opponent.
So what do I do now? I really don’t know!! After articles written in the Wall Street Journal, featuring my “face on” putting style have me feeling foolish touting this as a possible alternative to the belly putter. Although I’ve won over 100 amateur tournaments since 1997 when I made the switch to “face on” putting, it seems to have run its course, and now on longer putts I have a major glitch, especially uphill when I have to put a hit on the putt. I have lost my distance control, and the ball squirts off the putter blade in a direction I am not aiming for. I’ve tried several different putting grips and stances with no success, and since this crept into my game last July, I’ve seen my Amateur World ranking drop from about 160 to over 900 over a six month stretch (it doesn’t take much with a one year revolving system that I think should be two years like what the Scratch Players Golf Systems allows).
Crazy stretch yesterday, bogey on the par three 8th hole to go 2 down, birdie 9 for a tie, birdie 10 to get to one down, three putt 11 to go back to 2 down, eagle 11 to get back to one down, and birdie 13 to get the match even. The killer was on 14 when I was 30 feet for birdie, while Alex was 60 feet away. He knocked his putt to 4 feet, I yipped mine 6 feet past, I missed he makes and you walk off scratching your head…..”how did I lose that hole”???
I am mentioning all of this to illustrate how important the short game is under pressure, you either have a chance to win, or NO chance to win if you have issues with the putter or chipper. So if you have the Yips, what the HELL can you do? The connection between the brain and the nervous system is off, and nothing you do changes that electrical jolt that happens right at impact. It is terrifying, and depressing knowing it’s going to happen with very little you can do about it. The only option is to re-tool that part of your game, try something different, and hope it will work under pressure. I cans till remember playing in the British Senior Open at Turnberry last July, and on my very first hole, three putting from only 10 feet away. It was a painful struggle despite making the cut and playing 72 glorious holes at that amazing course.
SIDE SADDLE putting is not a quick fix, it will take you a long time to get the feel on the long putts, and get the technique down. I recommend that guys try these claw type of grips that you see guys like Michelson using. I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT AT HIS HOME IN PRIVACY, THAT TIGER WOODS IS SECRETLY TRYING A FEW OF THESE GRIPS, AS HIS PUTTING SUCKS AND IS THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE IN WHY HE IS NOT DOMINATING THE GAME LIKE HE ONCE DID.
Picture courtesy of Mike Benham fellow Olympian that sent these to me yesterday.
Not sure what’s next, but stay tuned!