Skin Tight A rare hot putter helped Steve Flesch eke out a victory at the Colonial

May 30, 2004

There are two reasons you may not know Steve Flesch. One is his
putter, which held him back during his first five years on the
PGA Tour much the way Vijay Singh's flat stick held him back
until he discovered the belly putter. Flesch is a respected ball
striker but had won only once through 2003 despite 43 top 10
finishes. That counts as underachieving for a player of his
ability. "I'll admit it, I've flinched on my share of
three-footers," Flesch says. "My putting is the reason I haven't
won more."

The second reason? His hat. When he takes it off, it's apparent
that his hairline (like those of a lot of 37-year-olds) has
pretty much evaporated. He put his recognition level to the test
last month at Harbour Town when he filmed a piece for In the
Flesch, the segment he does for the Golf Channel's pregame show.
Flesch showed Heritage fans a picture of himself sans hat and
asked if they could identify the man in the photo. "They'd say
no," Flesch says. "I was looking right at them, we've got a
camera on them, and they couldn't figure it out. We interviewed
20 people, and only one girl said, 'That's you.'"

Flesch's anonymity is fading fast. The Golf Channel gig, for
starters, is raising his profile. At Colonial Country Club he let
Golf Channel personality Kraig Kann caddie--or should that be
kaddie?--for him in the pro-am, then made fun of Kann when he
didn't measure up to Tour standards.

There's also Flesch's play. Venerable Colonial is a ball
striker's test, especially with the rock-'n'-rolly conditions and
the hot, gusty Texas wind that bedeviled the Bank of America
Colonial last week. The lefty Flesch outlasted a true West Texan,
Chad Campbell of Andrews, by a shot to earn his second Tour
victory.

Flesch's ball striking was good, but it was his clutch putting,
of all things, that made the difference. The tournament's key
statistic was also its most surprising: Flesch ranked third in
putting. (Campbell was No. 1.) It was Flesch's putter that saved
him in the third round, during which he hit only seven greens in
regulation but still shot the first of two weekend 67s. (He
switched models, to an Odyssey Two-ball, 15 minutes before the
start of the round.) Not bad for a guy who was among the 48 pros
who ignominiously finished behind 14-year-old Michelle Wie at the
Sony Open.

Most important, the win moved him up to ninth in the Ryder Cup
standings. "That's something I'd like to be a part of, but the
only way I'm going to make it is to play well," he says.

All he needs is a few more days like Sunday, which happened to be
his 37th birthday. Colonial club president Jim Thigpen led the
crowd that stayed for the award ceremony at the 18th green in a
rendition of Happy Birthday for Flesch. "They were pretty
off-key," Flesch says. His putting, at least on this weekend,
certainly wasn't.
--Gary Van Sickle

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN (FLESCH) MAKING A MOVE Flesch's second career win lifted him to ninth in the Ryder Cup standings. COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN (CHOPRA) COLOR PHOTO: ARNULFO FRANCO/AP (WALKER) COLOR PHOTO: HARRY MELCHERT/EPA (IMMELMAN) COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY (ELS)

Trust Me

The players would revolt if the PGA Tour showed the guts the LPGA
has in enforcing its new slow-play rule by assessing five
two-stroke penalties in the last two weeks.

Up & Down

[Up]

Daniel Chopra
Set the Nationwide scoring record (30 under) while winning for
the second time in two tries.

UCLA
The second-ranked Bruins pulled off a shocking upset to win the
women's NCAA title.

Belly Putters
A week after switching to a tummy stick, Trevor Immelman won the
Deutsche Bank-SAP.

[Down]

Jimmy Walker
Started Sunday with a shot at win number three and a Tour card
but ended up sixth despite shooting 65.

Duke
Considered the Best Team Ever, the Blue Devils dropped like a
J.J. Redick jump shot.

Belly Putters
After Immelman's opening 65, Ernie Els said that the broom
handles should be banned.

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)