Sunday, April 08, 2001

For contenders, proof is in putting


Different strokes help array of folks

By Paul Daugherty
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        AUGUSTA, Ga. — Mark Calcavecchia and Chris DiMarco are just two shots behind Tiger Woods. Each putts like he's trying to twist off a jar lid.

        Rocco Mediate is four shots behind. He uses a putter long enough to post him up. If any of these guys wins the Masters, practice greens will be clogged with hackers fiddling with their grips and trying putters that look like lengths of drainpipe.

        DiMarco has a routine that looks like Sean Casey in the batter's box:

        He grips the putter normally with his right hand. He adds his left hand, high on the grip but also conventionally. Then right before he putts, DiMarco rolls his right hand, so the thumb is up. His right hand grasps the club like a claw.

        Pros have called it DiMarco's “psycho” grip. Because he's a University of Florida alumnus, he prefers “Gator” grip. Whatever, DiMarco is on Tiger's tail partly because he ranks third in putting after three rounds.

        (Note to golf geeks: DiMarco says his grip keeps his right side out of his stroke. Go ahead. Try it. Roll a few on the family room rug right now.)

        Calcavecchia's grip is not as extreme, though he credits DiMarco with helping him help his putting, which, until about 18 months ago, was pathetic. Calcavecchia eyed two water bottles less than 2 feet apart. “From between these two water bottles there was a 50-50 chance of me making” the putt, he said. “I was twitchy.”

        Calcavecchia doesn't claw the putter the way DiMarco does. Only the ends of his fingers are involved, not the whole hand. He changed at the the Players Champion ship last year. “I could feel it. I hit the first (putt), and just had this big ol' grin on my face. I'd found my putting grip.”

        Mediate wields a putter tall enough to play small forward. He has been using it since late 1990. People thought him strange. Not that he cared.

        “My comment was always, "Kiss my (grits), I'm trying to make a living,'” he said.

        Mediate is tied for fifth with Calcavecchia for fewest putts. “I'm Mr. Putter now,” he said. “If I miss one, I'm shocked.”

        If he wins putting with that thing, the rest of us might be shocked, too.

       



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