Golf's All-Time Desperate Measures
September 11, 2011
Lefty Goes Long
With examples of missed short putts in big spots piling up, Mickelson joined a growing trend on the PGA Tour during the 2011 season without even informing his putting coach, Dave Stockton. Phil put the long putter in play for the first time at the Deutsche Bank Championship and after a rough couple of days, fired a third-round 63 to get into contention. Just how long his belly dance will last remains to be seen.
Freddie Goes To Germany
Fred Couples has spent most of his career fighting a bad back, but only recently, he took the most drastic measure to combat it. Couples flew to Germany in July 2011 to have a procedure done that isn't allowed in the U.S. and it seemed to work wonders immediately. Couples won his first tournament back, the Senior Players Championship in a playoff. "If I hadn't gone to Germany, I wouldn't be playing," Couples said that week. "That was my last hurrah, I guess, of giving something a shot. This is the last [doctor] I'm planning on going to see." Vijay Singh has since sought out the treatment as well.
Tiger Goes For A Spin
Like Couples, Woods was prompted to look for help internationally for a health issue. In the 14-time major champion's case, a slow recovery from a 2008 knee surgery caused him to try platelet-rich plasma therapy in which blood is drawn, put in a centrifuge and then injected back into the injury to help speed up the healing process. While it's legal in the U.S., Woods flew Canadian doctor Anthony Galea into the country to perform the procedure. This became a major story due to Galea's connection distribution of human growth hormone to other professional athletes. While it has never been proven that Woods took any type of performance-enhancing drug, his use of Dr. Galea to quicken his rehab raised eyebrows.
The Slammer Gets Creative
Always known as a great ball-striker, Snead resorted to trying just about everything to putt better. Most famously, he started putting croquet style during the 1966 PGA Championship at the age of 54 to try to fend off the yips and finished T-6. He won the Senior PGA Championship by nine strokes and finished T-10 at the 1967 Masters. But the USGA outlawed the method beginning in 1968and Snead was forced to adjust to a sidesaddle approach used briefly by K.J. Choi more recently in 2010. It's too bad professional croquet never caught on in the U.S. The Slammer could have cleaned up.
Taking The Couch To The Course
Ben Hogan would have scoffed at letting someone help him handle his feelings during his playing days, but now it's commonplace. Bob Rotella is the biggest name in this area and he also is one of the best examples of sports psychology first finding its way into the sport. In 1984, he began working with Denis Watson, a journeyman from Zimbabwe. That year, the unheralded pro would win three times and usher in a wave of clients for Rotella (left, with Darren Clarke) that he maintains today. Exactly how much does having a mental coach help is tough to say. But it makes sense that it could benefit those playing a game Bobby Jones famously once said "is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears."
Jack Seeks A Magic Wand
With his PGA Tour career dwindling down, Jack Nicklaus sought help on the greens. He turned to designer Clay Long, then head of MacGregor's R&D department, and asked him to make a similar putter to the one Tom Watson was using at the time. Nicklaus put the oversized-blade flatstick in his bag in early 1986 and that April, well, you know the story: "Yes sir!" Despite the fact that it would be the only win on tour ever produced by the putter, the historic victory made it a hot product. Initially forecasted to sell 6,000 pieces of equipment, the company sold 350,000 by the end of 1987. Yes, amateur golfers can be desperate too.
Popping Pills To Drop Putts
Doug Barron made news when he received a one-year ban for using beta blockers in 2009. However, golfers had been using them long before the PGA Tour outlawed them in a drug policy that went into effect July 3, 2008. Over the years, players like Craig Parry in 2000 and Mac O'Grady in 1994 claimed that top players were using the drugs to help steady their nerves. But do they even help? Nick Price was one of those to admit he used the drugs for five years after being subscribed them for high blood pressure. However, he had much better results on the course after he stopped using them in 1989. "You're just blah," Price said. "When I look back on what those drugs did to me, it was one of the worst periods of my whole life. If I could do it over again, I never would have taken them."
Johnny Shuts His Eyes
Michael Jordan once famously closed his eyes at the foul line during an NBA game and swished a free throw. But Johnny Miller basically pulled off the trick for four straight days. Miller, who had struggled on the greens for years decided that since seeing what he was doing wasn't working, he'd try putting without looking. It paid off as he captured the 1994 Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the last of his 25 PGA Tour titles and his first win in more than seven years. Of course, since then he's spent much of his time watching other people putt from a TV tower.
"Disco Dick" Tunes Out
Seeing players practice while wearing headphones has become commonplace, but Richard Zokol was ahead of his time. The Canadian pro turned to listening to tunes in an attempt to tune out the nerves that plagued him on the course. "Disco Dick", as he became known, tried the method for about a year in 1982, but didn't see much of an improvement. He did, however, learn every tour stop's best local radio stations.
Calc Double Dips
Caught between using a conventional putter and a long one, Mark Calcavecchia decided to give both a try. At the same time. Calc used two different putters at 2007 Barclays, relying on a long one for short putts. It seemed to work as he tied for the second-best putting total of the week, while racking up a T-4 overall. Having one less club in the bag cost him on the par-5 finishing hole, however, as he wound up in between clubs, was forced to lay up and could only make a par. Calc has used the strategy on a couple occasions since as have other pros, including Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik. More famously, Phil Mickelson used two drivers (one for draw holes and one for fade holes) at Augusta and claimed the 2006 Masters. For the most part, though, two-timing doesn't appear to be a winning formula.
Rocky Swings A Big Stick
Before long putters became all the rage on the pro circuit, Rocky Thompson went to a long driver in an effort to gain distance. Using a 55-inch telephone pole, um, make that a driver shaft (43.5 inches is about the average on the PGA Tour), the average-sized Thompson surprised many by becoming one of the longest hitters on the Champions Tour in 1995. Despite his brief success, the longer driver shaft never became a fad, which is probably a good thing. There's only so much graphite to go around.
Gene Goes Backward
As the name of the product suggests, the Basakwerd putter is, well, odd to say the least. In 1983, however, some of golf's biggest names used it in competition, most notably Gene Littler (left) and Johnny Miller. According to an article in Sports Illustrated, Tom Watson, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floydeven gave it a try in practice. The Basakwerd saw a flurry of success with 11 Senior Tour wins in a two-year span, but after that, it was used more as a doorstop.