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Jim Meehan: Area golf pros provide pointers on lag putting, discuss Tiger Woods’ major chances

UPDATED: Fri., June 29, 2018

Tiger Woods putts on the 10th hole during the second round of the Quicken Loans National golf tournament, Friday, June 29, 2018, in Potomac, Md. (Nick Wass / AP)
Tiger Woods putts on the 10th hole during the second round of the Quicken Loans National golf tournament, Friday, June 29, 2018, in Potomac, Md. (Nick Wass / AP)

When it comes to golf, most of us can use all the help we can get from sensible minds.

It’s one of the reasons we bring back the pros roundtable every summer. We check in periodically with area pros for instruction and for their opinions on other relevant golf topics.

Our first roundtable of 2018 features Deer Park’s Craig Schuh, The Highlands’ Mark Poirier and Bob Scott at MeadowWood, which completed installation of a new irrigation system earlier this month and the course is in outstanding condition.

Q: What’s the toughest course you’ve ever played, and why?

Craig: Tetherow (in Bend, Oregon). I just didn’t know where the trouble was, the sand, pot bunkers, everything. It was a course you had to play a few times to know where to hit it. The first time I played it, it was almost impossible, at least for me.

Mark: Back in my collegiate playing days, I played some really tough tracks down south. The greens were always so firm and fast with rough up past your pant cuffs. Around this area, I would say Circling Raven from the tips, with wind, can be a tough go for even the most avid golfer. To me, what makes a golf course difficult is the accuracy demand off the tee and the slope of the greens.

Bob: The toughest course I’ve ever played has to be the Idaho Club in Sandpoint. That’s not just in our area, that’s anywhere. It’s definitely one of the more picturesque courses. Jack Nicklaus did a great job on the design, but the greens can be super tough. Miss a fairway and you have a great chance of losing your ball. This is based on the tees for which I have to play most of the time. There are a variety of tees which make the course very playable and enjoyable.

Q: Tiger Woods is playing better this season with six Top 25 finishes in 10 starts, but he hasn’t won a major since 2008. Are you buying or selling that Woods will win another major?

Mark: I’m buying it! I began playing this game in 1993, the year before Tiger won his first U.S. Amateur. Ever since then, he has had an enormous influence on me. To say that I was, and still am, a huge Tiger fan is an understatement so my opinion here is extremely biased. Statistically, Tiger is the second best player of all time, and he’s only 42. He seems to be healthy, his club head speeds of late prove that. His short game also seems to be improving every week he tees it up. Tiger is just a freak athlete with a will to win.

Bob: I’m selling, mostly because I have a bet with (MeadowWood pro) Chris Curran that 1) he will never win a PGA event, and 2) he will never win a major. Most of why I’m selling is because of Tiger’s putting. From 1996 to 2006 he was so good from 10 feet and that they were also gimmies. With his age and the break he took from the tour, I just don’t see the comeback that a lot of people want. If I lose the bet to Chris, it would definitely be the best money lost and the greatest thing for golf. In 1996, the PGA tour played for $53 million. By 2006, they were playing for over $250 million. His economic impact for the tour can’t be matched by anyone.

Craig: If he stays healthy, I think he will. He’s played pretty well. I know he hasn’t won anything yet (this season) but his swing is good. It’s just a matter of playing some more and it comes down to confidence. He has the ability to do it and I think he will.

Q: Amateurs tend to rack up strokes with frequent three-putts. If you’re standing over a putt of at least 35 feet, what are some tips for effective lag putting?

Bob: Go to most courses and the driving ranges might be close to full, but very few golfers are on the putting green. Practice is my number one tip. When putting from 35 feet, the average golfer should try and get the ball within a three-foot radius. If you have some slope on the practice putting green, hit some putts from below the hole and above the hole to get a feel for the slope. “Drive for show and putt for dough” is so true.

Craig: I always go up to the hole, look at it from other side and see the last 10 feet of the putt and I try to hit it to that spot. With the putting stroke, people have to work on their stroke to keep their hands out of it. The other thing is when you’re practicing long putts, try closing your eyes and getting a feel for how hard to hit it. You get a lot of good feedback that way.

Mark: Lag putting is all about ‘feel’ and feel simply cannot be taught. Feel is learned through practice, and a lot of it. That being said, don’t try and make those 35-plus footers. Instead, imagine there is a six-foot circle around the cup and try and lag your ball inside that circle. This alone will remove some pressure to make it, so you’ll putt with more feel and less tension in your hands. If you want to be a better putter, spend the majority of your practice session rolling balls from 10 feet and in.

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