by Jeff Skinner
With the PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open being rained out yesterday we got to focus on the first major of the season with the LPGA’s inaugural major The Kraft Nabisco Championship.
There’s a lot of good golf being played on the LPGA Tour and don’t tell me that Yani Tseng couldn’t hold her own with the big boys of the PGA Tour. Yani can out drive plenty of the men and her game could translate to any course.
But if you watched any of the LPGA on the Golf Channel you had to notice the lack of quality putting from two of the tour’s biggest stars. Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer are two of the brightest stars of the LPGA but they both have struggled with their putters lately.
When Paula Creamer burst onto the tour by winning before she even graduated high school she was a fearless putter. She thought she could sink every putt and she putted that way. Her putting was a strength but recently she has lost the smoothness and decisiveness in her stroke.
Now, we know she has the talent after all this woman won the 2010 U.S. Open on the treacherous greens of Oakmont Country Club. But last year she fell to 82nd in putting average on tour and this year she is currently 43rd. You don’t win tournaments averaging 30 putts per round.
Creamer has been a good putter before and she’ll need to recapture that stroke if she is to return to the player she once was.
Michelle Wie has had a brilliant tee to green game ever since she started playing on the tour as an amateur at twelve years old. He length has allowed her to play a bombers game but her putter has never caught up to the rest of her game.
Her struggles with the short stick prompted her to switch to a belly putter halfway through last season but frustration with that wand caused her to switch back to her teenage putter for the Kraft this week.
Thursday’s putting showed no improvement over the long putter. Wie used 33 putts on her way to a one over 73 and looked out of synch with her putter.
Wie said she has had discussions with her teacher, David Leadbetter about her putting woes and that he wanted her to be more relaxed over her putts and not to think about it. That’s easier said than done.
First of all Leadbetter has taught Wie forever and he has the reputation for being too technical in his approach. Wie’s technique reflects that and for him to say she needs to be more of a “feel” putter is comical since he has spent a decade taking any sense a feel away from her.
Wie did say afterwards that she tends “to over think things” and that’s the last thing you need to do when you are standing over a putt.
Golf Channel analyst and LPGA Hall of Fame Member, Judy Rankin suggested that Michelle should try removing her sunglasses to better see the line. And that looks like part of the issue for Wei; there are plenty of putts that just look so offline that it was probably a misread of the greens.
Wie’s nemesis has always been the short 3-4 footers that drive us all crazy and she is no different. She misses more than her share of short putts and being the emotional person she is it causes her game to suffer.
What confuses me is why Michelle hasn’t sought some outside help for her putting. Yani Tseng and Suzanne Pettersen are both working with Dave Stockton. Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy are clients of Stockton also. If the best golfers in the world are seeking help then Michelle should do the same.
There are many putting gurus available and Wie needs their help. She has been a poor putter for too long and it is obvious that she is not improving. Maybe the switch back to the regular length putter will help but a phone call to a putting specialist may increase her chances of finding a short game to go with that world class tee to green game.