The Loop

The Angry Golfer: It's Only Brilliant If Putts Go In

SOUTHPORT, England -- Halfway out the door to buy a plexiglass umbrella, I heard one of the BBC chaps say Lee Westwood had "played a brilliant round" despite beginning his British Open four over par after three holes and missing a half-dozen putts inside six feet on his way back to that airplane hangar of a clubhouse. Westwood would finish at five-over 75, which I wouldn't refer to as "brilliant," but it's this prevailing notion that a man's putting has no factor whatsoever on the overall quality of his performance that is bothering me more than the 42-degree windchill.

Call it the Woody Austin Syndrome. Austin, you may recall, announced at last year's PGA Championship that he had outplayed Tiger Woods "by at least four or five shots, and he beat me by seven." Now Woody's obviously no Michelangelo with the flat stick, but the last time I checked, they cut 18 holes into 18 greens and you're expected to knock the little white ball into every one of them, which Austin eventually does.

Lousy putters tend to view the game as a tee-to-green test, conveniently ignoring the fact that putting is the only truly objective activity in a round. You might think someone's drive is better than I do, and I might be happier with a guy's iron shot than you are, but putting? You either make it or you miss it. Some misses are better than others, but from any distance, you still haven't completed the hole.

As I finish writing this, Westwood is tied for 71st, with several dozen players still on the course. He won't be moving up the scoreboard this afternoon. If he doesn't start making more six-footers, he won't be moving up at all.

--John Hawkins