Dear Friends,

Dr. Putt has been laboring over the last six months to complete an online textbook for his students in his other life as a college professor. Now that it is completed--at least a good first draft--he is back to thinking about golf. Back to a better balance in life!

Here are the topics that have come to the forefront in the golf lobe of Dr. Putt's brain during this hiatus.

1) What Rocco Does Not Know
2) To Release or Not Release
3) The Tigerless Tour

1) What Rocco Does Not Know

As Dr. Putt was channel surfing during the U.S. Open this summer, he happened upon a "play with the Pro's" segment on the Golf Channel. Rocco Mediate was the pro, which of course caught Dr. Putt's attention because Rocco ws doing so well in the tournament.

Rocco was telling us that he did not think anyone can actually aim at a blade of grass or some precise point in putting. His method was to stand over the ball and line up so that he imagined the path the ball would take to the hole and then simply putt it on that path. Certainly that can work if one reads the green well and lines up properly on the initial line. No one can argue that Rocco has done well this way.

But in fact, one can line up to aim at a particular point. Tiger, who eventually whipped Rocco, does this. Aiming the ball at a spot or along an initial line to begin it on the imagined path is what drawing a line on the ball is all about. Moreover, the EOB device that sponsor's Dr. Putt's efforts helps ensure that the putter is perpendicular to that line and then moves along that line.

So while imagining a path is certainly a viable way to approach a putt, aiming the ball and then the putter blade on that line that begins the path would increase the probability that the ball actually rolls along that line. Give it a try Rocco! As good as you are, you can get better. And dropping one more putt that week would have made a lot of difference.

2) To Release or Not Release

Recently Dr. Putt received a letter asking about releasing the putter on the stroke. Dr. Putt would like to share the letter and his response.

"Dear Dr. Putt, I am a 4 handicap but putting especially from 10 feet and more I cannot seem to release the putter, resulting in pushes and pulls. My distance control is still quite good. Any tips? thank you, Martin Westwood"

Here is how Dr. Putt answered this letter. The answer is simple -- do NOT release the putter! Simply take a longer backswing and putt at the same tempo using a "dead hands" stroke that is executed by tilting or rocking the shoulders with hands and arms doing nothing but following along. Adding another motion simply adds another variable that increases the chances for error. Let's keep putting as simple as possible.

Please bear with Dr. Putt for one more comment not in the original answer. Trying to consciously release the putter means that one will have active hands at some point in the stroke rather than "dead hands," a release that will slightly change the angle of the putter blade. If one has a natural release that comes WITHOUT conscious thought, one might be consistent in the path of the putter blade. But if the release is conscious, consistency will be impossible because the release will happen at slightly different times on every stroke. IN addition, letting it happen naturally requires a consistent light grip. That light grip is the first thing to go when under pressure or as one ages and no longer has the nerves and optimism of youth. And that is why a "dead hands" grip, without any hand action, is generally better. Enough said.

3) The Tigerless Tour

What we learned this year is that Tiger can beat the field on a broken leg, and has been beating the field with a damaged knee for some time now. With Tiger off the tour for the last two majors, the potential for drama seemed to have been drained. Who was to break records with spectacular shots under immense pressure?

Just when all seemed lost, the last superstar with an animal nickname came though, at least for a while. The old Shark kept us all on the edge of our seats for three rounds. It seemed too good to be true, coming back at his age with his physical limitations and on his honeymoon with the tennis star we all loved, no less. Yet on the last day, the Shark changed back into the old tragedy-prone Greg Norman, hitting low percentage drives into places from which he could not recover. It was too good to be true. Those of us on the far side of 50 felt old again.

That Padraig won the Open for the second stright time was impressive, but somehow anticlimactic after the Shark drowned. But then the popular Padriag went on to win the PGA, no doubt warming the hearts of tv golf executives, and perhaps setting the stage for someone to position himself to challenge Tiger upon his return. That was likely to be the script commentators were planning. But then Padraig disappeared in subsequent tournaments and the drama was once again gone.

Perhaps the Ryder Cup, which takes place later this week, will add some drama to the end of the year. Can the Americans, deprived of the leadership of a Tiger, pull it out over the favored European team? That seems as likely as it did with Tiger, given his mediocre Ryder record.

Given the severe problems facing the nation, Dr. Putt is not inclined to get terribly excited and start yelling "USA!" But at least the Ryder Cup might be an amusing distraction as we await Tiger to attempt reentry into the fray next year. For the good of the game, let us hope he makes it back in good form.

Best regards,
Dr. Putt