Q + A Chris Marais The Guinness World Records sleuth reveals the truth on a new entry for the world's longest putt

April 27, 2003

SI: Fergus Muir, a 66-year-old retired Scottish executive,
claimed that on Nov. 6, 2001, he holed a 375-foot putt from the
tee to a front pin position on the 144-yard, par-three 5th hole
of the Eden Course at St. Andrews. Earlier this month his claim
was accepted as a new world record. How did you verify that it
was a record length?

CM: We have lots of resources here. Of course we have our record
books. We have contacts at specialist magazines. The Internet is
also a good source.

SI: So, basically, you do a Google search?

CM: Yes, that can work.

SI: There must be more to the verification process than that. How
can you be absolutely certain that Muir didn't simply make it up?

CM: We have a healthy cynicism. When you see so many claims, you
get a feel for what is genuine. We're professionals here, and we
have a lot of checks and balances. We don't like to make
mistakes, and hopefully we don't, because we're the final word.

SI: Can you be more specific?

CM: We have guidelines. He has to provide a letter and at least
two witness statements from people of local standing in the
community. It also helped that there was a lot of press coverage.

SI: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Are you saying we have to trust the press?

CM: I'm a former sports journalist by trade, so yes. I have a lot
of contacts on various sports desks, and I trust that journalists
do their best to report fairly.

SI: Do you ever use a lie detector?

CM: As an organization we prefer to take things on good faith,
and a claim will be rejected if there is any shadow of doubt.
Most record attempts are on video for evidence, but that wasn't
the case with this.

SI: So Muir now holds the record. But don't you think that
someone somewhere has holed a longer putt and you haven't heard
about it?

CM: It's quite possible. Most people submit records for purely
historical reasons. The previous record for the longest putt
[166'8"] was also set in the U.K. We invite claims from
everywhere, but it's more ingrained in the U.K. culture. We'd
like to increase our global exposure.

SI: I'm sorry, but I have to ask: Is there a chance, however
small, that Muir paid off his two buddies to vouch for him?

CM: [Long pause] Do you have some information that I'm not aware
of?

COLOR PHOTO: TED HUMBLE-SMITH BY THE BOOK Marais's investigation confirmed that a Scottish manmade a 375-foot putt at St. Andrews.

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)