By E. Michael Johnson
Although Michelle Wie is one of the best ball-strikers on the LPGA Tour, a case could be made that she won the U.S. Women's Open on the greens. The tabletop putting stroke Wie employs might be hard to look at, but it allowed her to go all 72 holes at Pinehurst No. 2 without a three-putt -- no small accomplishment on Donald Ross' turtleback greens.
Photo: Michael Cohen/Getty Images
Wie might also want to hand an assist to coach David Leadbetter. Three weeks ago Leadbetter suggested that his pupil flatten the lie angle on her Nike Method 006 putter to get her hands in a better position. Joking that "it usually takes about a month for me to listen to him," Wie had the adjustment made just prior to the Open.
"I flattened the lie angle 4.5 degrees," Wie said. "The Nike guys were here this week, and since I had a backup with me, it was a good time to make the change. I really wasn't planning to put it in play, but it felt so good I put it in the bag."
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Getting the proper lie angle on one's putter might be one of the most underutilized routes to better golf. For starters, few players actually get fit for their putters, opting instead to simply grab one from the putter corral, stroke a few putts and then, like a smitten teen on a first date, fall in love immediately. Tour pros, however, realize its importance to success on the greens.
Often a lie-angle change is needed when the stroke changes. When Chris DiMarco first went to a claw-style putting stroke in 1995, he had little trouble adapting his putter to his stroke. As the years went on, however, DiMarco found the toe of his putter rising off the ground. "I just wanted to get where my left hand was comfortable on the club," he said. "I wanted it so the toe of the putter wasn't off the ground and the heel wasn't off the ground." The final solution: The same Ping Anser F putter he had been using, but with the club bent four degrees upright.
DiMarco's solution wouldn't surprise putting guru Dave Pelz. A proponent of making sure players have the correct lie angle on their putters, Pelz theorizes that many golfers set up too far from the ball, the main culprit being a putter with too flat a lie angle. In fact, according to Pelz, it is four times more likely to find a player with a lie angle that is too flat than too upright.
"A lie angle that is too flat will cause a player to reach for the ball and his hands will move out from under the shoulders," Pelz told Golf World in 2010. "That leaves the putter swinging around the body instead of along the proper path. It also places the eyes inside the target line, which can result in the player aiming right of the target." Left unsaid was that a too-upright putter leaves the eyes outside the line, with a tendency to aim left of the target.
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Pelz's comments came shortly after working with Phil Mickelson and changing the lie angle on Lefty's Odyssey putter, making it one degree flatter. Keeping the face angle on path was the main reason for Mickelson's change. "Face angle means a lot more than stroke, and my face angle wasn't lined up," said Mickelson. "It was lined up at address, but it wasn't staying square throughout the putt, and it was noticeable when I started working with Pelz. . . . I spent two weeks working on it and trying to get it dialed in."
What are the telltale signs that your lie angle may be off? A good rule of thumb is that if you're in a comfortable setup position, but find the heel or toe of the putter dragging on the green before impact, then you may need to adjust the lie angle.
Of course, a player doesn't always have to adjust the lie angle to get the effect of doing so. Anytime a player changes the length of his putter, he is effectively altering lie angle as well. It is one of the reasons why some tour pros will change putter lengths after making an alteration to their stroke.
And any adjustment that helps make more putts is one worth considering.
BRENDAN STEELE // Anchor's away
After shooting 74 during the first 18 holes in sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, Brendan Steele had had enough
of the anchored stroke. Particularly struggling with his distances on lag putts, Steele -- who won the 2011 Valero Texas Open while anchoring -- switched to a conventional-length putter and a non-anchored stroke for the afternoon round. Steele didn't qualify for Pinehurst, but the second 18 served a purpose. "I made the change because I had nothing to lose," he said. "It was a good time to do it."
Steele putted well enough that he continued with it at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-5 while ranking 13th in strokes gained/putting, including an opening-round 62. Steele used a Scotty Cameron by Titleist Futura X and employed Boccieri Golf's Secret Grip, which provides a counterbalancing effect. The grip Steele used was the midsize model, weighing 155 grams. The result? "Speed control is a lot better," said Steele.
Nike RZN Black
The company's RZN line features a core with a waffle-pattern to better interlock with the mantle layer. The Black version spins less than the Platinum. Michelle Wie used the Black model at the U.S. Women's Open.
For former U.S. Amateur champion Ryan Moore, finding the right driver has been problematic. One of the reasons is Moore fights a high spin rate. At the Travelers Championship, Moore changed to a TaylorMade SLDR 430 with 10.5 degrees loft, but used the adjustable hosel to bring the loft down to 9 degrees. The move appeared to work. Moore finished T-5 while averaging 292.9 yards off the tee and hitting 80.4 percent of his fairways, ranking T-4 for the week. . . . Lexi Thompson took out her 18-degree Cobra Baffler T-Rail 2-hybrid and added a Cobra S2 Forged 3-iron at the U.S. Women's Open. Thompson added the club to give her another option off the tee at Pinehurst No. 2.