The Tip That Saved Sutton
We've heard all about Hal Sutton's mid-career crisis, how he had
lost his ball-striking skills in the wilderness of swing theory
and, by going back to basics, found his way. But the most
dramatic element of Sutton's comeback has hardly been noticed: He
has gone from having one of the worst short games on the Tour to
having one of the best.
The truth is in the numbers. The Tour's scrambling stat shows how
often a player makes par or better after missing the green in
regulation. Sutton used to be abysmal in this category. In 1992,
the year he hit bottom, he ranked 173rd in scrambling, and he
resided in that neighborhood for the next five seasons. Back then
if the thick-limbed and heavy-handed Sutton had to pull off a
finesse shot with a lofted club, forget about it.
In '98 Sutton began to improve by quantum leaps, rising to 69th
in scrambling. This year, with nearly half the season over, he
leads the Tour in that category, at 70.8%.
The architect of the improvement is Floyd Horgen, Sutton's
college coach at Centenary. Now 63 and a teaching pro at
Riverside Country Club in Bozeman, Mont., Horgen had stayed in
contact with Sutton but was more of a cheerleader than a coach.
Finally, in '96, Horgen sent Sutton an instructional video that
addressed the fatal flaw in his full swing: Sutton was rotating
his left forearm counterclockwise during the backswing. As a
result his club face was closed to the target and a normal
release produced a pull hook. Once Sutton understood what had
gone wrong, he regained his mantle as one of the Tour's best from
tee to green. But Horgen's cure had an unintended secondary
effect: It solved Sutton's short-game woes.
Even when Sutton was called the Bear Apparent in the early '80s,
his short game had been suspect. By the early '90s Sutton had
such a bad case of the chip yips that he would use his putter
from 10 yards off the green rather than risk chunking or thinning
the ball with a lofted club. "Hal just didn't have the skills,
and he was giving away shots in bunches to the players who did,"
says Horgen. To close that gap, Sutton applied Horgen's advice to
his short game, eliminating the counterclockwise forearm rotation
in the backswing. That allowed him to leave the face of the club
open going back, get under the ball better and have a more
natural release. He also turned his shoulders more and stopped
his lower body from swaying in the backswing. Soon Sutton began
hitting his chips and pitches higher and with more spin. "I take
the weight transfer out of my short shots by hitting the ball
flat-footed," says Sutton. "The bottom of my arc is always the
same spot, so I catch a lot more shots solid."
The puzzle really came together for Sutton when he added a
60-degree Ping Eye2 L wedge to his bag in '98. That wedge and his
new technique have combined to produce some of the more memorable
moments of Sutton's career. At the '98 Tour Championship he
pulled off a sand save on the 72nd hole that got him into the
playoff he won against Vijay Singh. On the second day of last
September's Ryder Cup, Sutton nearly sank an impossible flop shot
from behind the 3rd green to halve the hole. Last month in
Greensboro, N.C., Sutton hit only five greens in regulation in
the third round but got up and down 12 of 13 times to salvage an
even-par 72 that kept him in the lead, which he never
relinquished. "Five years ago Hal would've barely broken 80
hitting five greens," says Horgen. "That round sums up how far
Hal Sutton has come."
The 10 Commandments
Gary Player's tips for the well-mannered golfer
Shaking the hands of the other players in the group at the end of
a round has been de rigueur since the Tour began, but lately the
pros have revived additional courtesies, such as taking off the
hat and glove before shaking. Ernie Els and Davis Love III were
among the first routinely to doff their caps to show respect for
their playing partners, and lately Tiger Woods has been doing the
same, which gratifies a veteran such as Gary Player. "The game
seemed to be losing some of these traditions," says Player, "so
it made me happy at the end of the Players Championship when
Tiger, after losing to Hal Sutton, took off his cap, smiled and
warmly shook Hal's hand. What Tiger does influences everyone in
golf, especially young people, so it's good to see him following
the example of the champions of the past." Here are 10 other
courtesies that Player, who believes that manners maketh the man,
would like to see perpetuated.
1) Say "Good luck" or "Play well" to your playing partners
before the round begins. Says Player, "This might seem
perfunctory, but it's a ritual that shows respect and gets
things started nicely. When a player says nothing--and there are
a few like that--it makes you wonder about that guy."
2) Acknowledge a well-played stroke. Says Player, "It's
satisfying to get even a nod or a smile from a peer who
understands the difficulty of the game. By the same token, just
saying "Good shot" when it wasn't a good shot is annoying. Jack
Nicklaus was so great about offering encouragement. I'm sure he
knew it helped lesser players feel more confident, but he always
wanted to beat people at their best."
3) Allow other players to see what club you hit. Says Player,
"That's within the rules, and I've never had a problem with it.
No matter what a player knows in advance, the most difficult
thing is to hit the shot."
4) If you're a gallery favorite, mark even your shortest putts or
give your partner the option to putt out, because the crowd will
move once the favorite holes out. Says Player, "Arnold [Palmer]
was wonderful about this. When I sense the gallery wants to move,
I usually call out, 'One more to go, please.'"
5) Avoid extreme displays of emotion, negative or positive, or
limit them to appropriate moments. Says Player, "We all get hot,
and players understand spontaneous outbursts, but anything that
lingers when the other fellow is getting ready to play is
6) Refrain from excessive commentary after a shot. Says Player,
"Reactions like, 'I can't believe that putt broke uphill,' could
confuse or distract the next player to putt, so it's best to keep
these things to yourself or to vent to your caddie. Then again,
if a pro listens to those things and lets them affect him, it's
his own fault."
7) After putting out, fix as many spike marks around the hole as
possible. Says Player, "I have a reputation for being a good
person to play behind. I'm a little manic about spike marks
because I think the rule should be changed to allow you to fix
them before you putt."
8) Stand in the right place when the other player is hitting.
Says Player, "Basically, you should stand either opposite his
belly button or directly in back of his belly button. I'd say
about five percent of the Tour pros stand in the wrong place. I
tell my caddie that if he sees me in a bad place, to tell me so I
can move, and if a player is bothering me, I will ask him
politely to move."
9) Play at an even, comfortable pace. Says Player, "I don't enjoy
slow play, but sometimes it's unavoidable. Certain players have a
way of finding a nice rhythm no matter what the pace, and that
makes them enjoyable to play with. That's why everyone liked to
play with Sam Snead."
10) Shake hands with the other players' caddies, too. Says
Player, "This is new, and I suppose it's because the players all
have regular caddies. It's lovely. It's good for fans to see
caddies being given respect, because the job requires a lot of
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews was wise to
declare its intention to close ranks with the USGA and outlaw
hot drivers, but until R&A officials abandon their quills and
enter the computer age, high-tech equipment manufacturers will
be tempted to try to divide and conquer the game's governing
What do these players have in common?
They're the only golfers other than Carlos Franco to have won
consecutive titles at the New Orleans Tour stop.
Is a gifted golfer better off turning pro after high school, as
Sergio Garcia did, or attending college, like Matt Kuchar?
--Based on 4,359 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Should the Players Championship be moved to give
the spring schedule a shot in the arm? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
SYNONYMS for a LOB SHOT
Balloon, beanbag, blimpy, blooper, butterfly, dead ball,
dragonfly, feather, kill shot, let the air out, parachute,
Phil's phlop, pillow ball, pop tart, sack of potatoes, sky
pilot, splat, take the polar route, up the ladder, up top.
Blaine McCallister earned more in the Dead Zone--Greensboro,
Houston and New Orleans--than any other nonexempt player. Here
are the nonexempt players who earned the most during the Zone
and their rank on the money list.
Rank 4/17 Rank 5/8 Dead Zone $
Blaine McCallister 106 33 $381,713
Joel Edwards 123 62 $226,841
Bob Burns 121 96 $113,900
Doug Dunakey -- 131 $109,500
Maria Garcia-Estrada, Tenerise, Spain
Garcia-Estrada, a freshman at Duke, got her first collegiate
victory and became the third consecutive freshman to win the ACC
title while leading the second-ranked and defending NCAA
champion Blue Devils to their fifth straight conference title.
Garcia-Estrada shot a one-under 215 to beat teammates Beth Bauer
and Candy Hannemann by two strokes.
Stephen Reed, Houston
Stephen, 18, a senior at St. Thomas High, triumphed at the Texas
Junior Classic in West Columbia to become the first person of
color to win an American Junior Golf Association tournament since
Tiger Woods in 1992. Stephen, who has a scholarship to play at
Texas A&M, also won the Texas Christian Interscholastic League
title for a third straight year.
Jayme Berkowitz, Brookings, Ore.
Jayme, a senior at Brookings-Harbor High who will play at Cal
next season, set the 18-hole and back-nine scoring records at
Bandon Dunes Golf Course with an eight-under-par 64 and
nine-under 27, respectively, in a one-day high school
tournament. In 1999 Jayme was the runner-up at the PGA Junior in
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Submit Faces candidates to golfplus.cnnsi.com/faces.
Pet of the Week
BUDDY, SAM SNEAD'S GOLDEN RETRIEVER
Buddy was given to Snead after the Jan. 1, 1997, death of
Meister, the golden that had been Snead's sidekick for 14 years.
"Dad called me from Florida the morning after [Meister's death],
and he was crying," says Jack Snead. "He said, 'I had to put
Meister down last night, and it felt like I was losing you.'"
Seeing Sam struggle with the loss reminded Jack's wife, Ann, of
Buddy, an 85-pound golden who was owned by her brother in Dallas.
She knew that Buddy was not doing well in the Texas heat, so she
suggested that her brother give the dog a better home, and he
agreed. Buddy immediately bonded with Sam, whose touch with
animals is so well known that he is said to have tamed the fish
that reside in a pond on his property.
Buddy shadows Sam all day. When Sam plays golf, Buddy rides in
the cart, as Meister had, and never jumps out to chase balls.
When Sam gets into his car, Buddy takes the backseat, sometimes
soiling the upholstery with his muddy paws. "Sam doesn't care,"
says Ann. "Seeing that dog happy makes him happy."