Big Play

July 14, 2002

When Juli Inkster made yet another big putt, on 15, she drove a
dagger into Annika Sorenstam, who saw it all happen from the tee

Pro golfers aren't supposed to talk smack, but they can make
plenty of noise with their clubs. Juli Inkster won the U.S. Open
by speaking loud and clear with her flat stick, taking only 105
putts over four rounds and one-putting 37 times. The highlight
of Inkster's in-your-face putting clinic came on Sunday at the
par-3 15th hole. Faced with a twisty 18-footer for par to
maintain her one-shot lead over Annika Sorenstam, who was
watching from the tee while munching on a banana (above),
Inkster surveyed the putt for about two minutes. After a final
word of advice from caddie Greg Johnston, Inkster holed the putt
and gave a triumphant fist-pump, as if she were screaming, "The
game's on, Annika. The trophy's mine, unless you can answer
that." Inkster's theatrics appeared to unnerve Sorenstam, who
replied, shockingly, with bogeys at 15 and 16.

ONLY PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT Thanks largely to Sorenstam's torrid
play in 2002, I've had several club members turn to the
unusual-looking Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter to improve their
strokes, and Inkster's use of the 2-Ball at the Open will surely
bring more desperate yippers into our pro shop. I guess golfers
will never fess up to the cold truth of putting's oldest maxim: A
shooter improves with more practice, not with new arrows.

REALITY BITES I felt as bad as anybody for my friend Davis Love
III on Sunday when he was heckled by unruly spectators down the
stretch at the Western Open, but Davis needs to face the facts:
The PGA Tour is now a major sporting enterprise and, like it or
not, things on Tour are going to get louder, not
quieter--especially at this September's Ryder Cup in England,
where Davis will play for the U.S. Even if Davis is bothered by
the goading, he'd be better off not showing it. I was one of the
Cameron Crazies (Duke's loud-mouthed hoops fans) during my years
as a Blue Devil in the 1980s, and when opposing players reacted
to us, it just added fuel to our fire. Tour players like Davis
have a choice: They can stay home and listen to the birds chirp
while playing $5 Nassaus, or they can learn to cope with
occasionally rowdy galleries while battling for $5 million
purses.

TIGER RULES Tiger Woods is so much better than his peers that the
Tour should keep stats for two categories of victory--one for
events in which Woods plays and another for ones he doesn't.
(Since Woods turned pro in 1996, Phil Mickelson has a Tour-high
six victories in events with Woods and six in events without
him.) Also, young players looking to make a name should tailor
their schedules to include every event Woods doesn't enter. Do
you think Jerry Kelly would've shot a final-round 65 at the
Western Open to earn his second Tour victory had he been paired
with Woods in the final group?

Mike Lopuszynski is the teaching pro at Hudson National Golf Club
in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., and one of Golf Magazine's Top 100
teachers.

THREE COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF NBC (3) COLOR PHOTO: PORTER BINKS

THE TIP

The key to great putting isn't a perfect stroke or a magic blade;
it's the ability to properly read greens. No matter how well a
putt is struck, it has no chance to go in if it's off-line. The
most important thing to know is that every putt is really a
straight putt. By that I mean that your job is to gauge the
direction, select a target a few inches ahead of the ball and hit
the ball at the target with the proper speed. The green's slope
will cause the ball to curve.

My favorite drill for learning how to read greens involves
attaching a pencil to each end of a 10-foot string and sticking
the pencils in the green. The string should be taut and at least
six inches above your target line, with one pencil by your feet
and the other parallel to the hole. Put your ball under the
string, leaving room for the backswing between the putter and the
pencil. A correctly hit putt will start rolling under the string
and then curve away from the string and into the hole. If you
miss, you'll have to adjust the string's placement, how hard you
hit the ball, or both.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)