Giving the ball the what for

June 25, 2007

Putting is not an art, it's a dreaded evil. No wise man ever said that.

I said it myself, just now. And here's another thing: There are times when putting is such an evil, it can make a sane, normal, healthy man stand knock-kneed, cross his eyes and sing soprano.

All of which is why I've worked out these helpful speeches that can be delivered to the golf ball before you ask it to roll itself into the cup from only, say, three feet away.

Speech No. 1

"Hi. I seem to have forgotten to introduce myself. I'm Horton Smith. The Joplin Ghost? That ring a bell? No? Well, consider this: I haven't missed a three-footer since 1929. Actually, I haven't missed a six-footer since 1929. In fact, I've made so many putts in a single round that Sam Snead's been known to stick a finger down his throat. Now, here's what we're going to do. I, Horton Smith, am going to give you a gentle little rap and you're going to seek out the cup, just as you would if the two of us were on the 17th at the Augusta National in 1934, OK? Good. Here we go."

Speech No. 2

"Hey, man, how you doin'? It's me again. As you know, I ain't one of them famous putters. I ain't no Jackie Burke Jr., who was the greatest putter since Horton Smith. I ain't no Dave Stockton, who was the greatest putter since Jackie Burke. I ain't no Ben Crenshaw, who was the greatest putter since Dave Stockton. And I ain't no Loren Roberts, 'The Boss of the Moss,' who they claim is a greater putter than Ben Crenshaw, although I don't see how that could be possible.

"It's just me, your good pal Auto. Right. Mr. Auto Matic. Same guy as Throat Man ... Drain Pipe ... Root Canal ... Downstairs. They gimme lots of nicknames out here where we play for our own money.

"Now, here we go. I need this three-footer, don't you see? It ain't for nothin' more important than a lung and a kidney. Yeah, I know. You've heard me say that before. But this time it's as serious as rent.

"So what you have to do is, you have to play like you're a BB and that cup there is a washtub. Ain't nothin' else to it."

Speech No. 3

"It's your choice, buddy. I mean, this ... is ... it. We're talking last chance here.

"Like I've had it, you know? I've had it with your lipouts and your hanging on the edges. I've had it with your not recognizing bent from Bermuda. I've had it with your stupid speeds. Slow one time, fast the next.

"And, hey! I've really had it with your pathetic accusations about how somebody read too much break, how somebody didn't read enough break, how somebody didn't know about grain.

"Boy, am I sick of all that. And you. You sit there looking innocent. You have no idea what it's like to live with betrayal.

"I used to be taller. I could see without these glasses. I could hear out of both ears. I could put on a pair of socks without screaming. I could write a book about my torment, believe me.

"You think you were the first? Back there with that three-putt on No. 11? Back there with your four-putt on No. 14? Back there with your 20-inch gunch on the 16th?

"Ha! I can't even begin to count the number of murderous, scum-level traitors who to this day rot in ditches, creeks and forests because they were into betrayal.

"They were like you once. They could have had a life. A home in the warmth and comfort of my golf bag. In there with close friends. No real responsibilities other than to clear a creek on a tee shot and now and then roll a few feet into a cup on a green. Like that was asking for the moon and the stars?

"But no. The deceitful little slimebags suddenly decided they wanted to test my character.

"So let me tell you something, buddy. Look around. You see that dismal slime-ridden area right there behind the green and over here to the right? Do you know what that is?

"I'll tell you what that is. It's a swamp. You know what you find in a swamp? I'll tell you what you find in a swamp. You don't find a lot of Catherine Zeta-Joneses in a swamp, that's what.

"So be my guest. Get yourself tossed in there, for all I care. And I can tell by your look. You don't want me to make this three-footer. I know it and you know it.

"Fine. Here. Let's miss it, then. You happy now, you miserable little creep? Swell. Go ahead. Be an hors d'oeuvre!"