LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Having only 52 putts through 36 holes explains why Hale Irwin, 65, has shot 69-68 and is challenging to win the Senior PGA Championship.
He traces his success on Valhalla GC's greens to a visit last week to TaylorMade's putting studio, where a technician helped him fix his alignment. "I felt that I had been aiming my putter blade a little bit too much to the right and obviously like most things you swing it to the left," Irwin said. "[The studio] proved that I was aiming left, the putter blade was aiming left, and then I had to open the blade to get it back on line."
It feels to Irwin now as if he is lining up with "my putter blade open, but it's really square."
Trusting the change, though difficult, has worked. "Boy, I've rolled some really nice putts," said Irwin, who has drained a few 40-footers over the first two rounds.
While his putting was a key to his domination on the Champions Tour, it has fallen off in recent years. He arrived at Valhalla GC ranked 46th in putting average per Green in Regulation, after having been ranked no better than 54th the previous three seasons.
"If I can kind of get my tee-to-green game a little bit more predictable, particularly my irons, and keep my putting touch going, I'll feel good going into the weekend," said Irwin, who would become the oldest winner in Senior PGA Championship (eclipsing Jock Hutchison, 62) and Champions Tour (Mike Fetchick, 63) history with a victory.
"Forgetting the age, just to win this championship again would be fantastic," said Irwin, who claimed his fourth Senior PGA at Valhalla seven years ago. "If I can give myself a chance in the last nine holes, then that's all I can do."
-- Bill Fields