Building the Ideal Golfer, Piece by Piece
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
If you could turn yourself into the absolute perfect golfer, one that could drive the ball for miles and straight down the fairway, who would you borrow from to make yourself the king of the golf world?
Would you use Gene Sarazen’s laser-like accuracy off the tee or Phil Mickelson’s swashbuckling style to try any shot at any time?
There are, of course, no right or wrong answers here. What one would consider an essential part of transforming into a perfect player might be considered silly by someone else.
That is what makes this exercise fun. It really is up to each of us as to what we think would make us the perfect golfer.
Here are six things that I would steal if I was creating my version of perfection.
What are yours?
Bubba Watson's Length
Steve Grayson/Getty Images
Bubba just hits it a country mile.
Even if it is not dead center, it is so far down the fairway that he is taking either a short-iron or a wedge from the rough.
One does not win The Masters without placing the ball down the fairways. After Tiger Woods destroyed the place in the 1997 championship, holes were lengthened, tees were moved back and even a hint of real rough was introduced to make sure no one would do it again.
While Bubba did not take apart the place like Tiger did, he could reach the par-five’s and not be at a disadvantage on those long closing holes that are steeply up hill.
While there have been plenty of bombers off the tee, Bubba’s swing is so pure and natural. He is also not a big and sculpted player.
Besides, you can get away with a pink-shafted driver when you can crush it like Bubba, and man, can he crush it.
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
What endears Phil Mickelson to most fans is the fact he just keeps his foot on the accelerator and tries to make each shot.
Need to use a driver off the deck to reach a par-five in two? Phil’s your guy.
Down five shots with nine holes left? Phil gets at least three, if not more.
What has cost him dearly in majors works for him most weeks on tour. He can see and try shots that most of us mere mortals would not even try after a lengthy visit at the beer cart on the turn.
Not only does he have the ability to score when he needs to, but he can save par out of the most awful lies around the green with his ability to hit flop shots near the hole.
You do not win 40-plus times on tour without being an artist. Phil may be more Salvidor Dali than Rembrandt, but Dali’s paintings are worth millions too.
Tiger's Course Management
David Cannon/Getty Images
If you are going to have the best aggressive aspect with Phil, then you better have the best defender with Tiger Woods.
In his prime, no one thought their way better around a course.
When he won the 2006 Open Championship at Hoylake on a course that was as baked out as any links course has ever been, he used driver once all week and won.
Not only could Tiger could defeat a whole field of just merely above-average pro golfers, he defeated the courses as well.
He knew where he could get into trouble and get away with it.
He perfected that low stinger three-wood shot that would be almost as long as a driver off the tee, but be as accurate as a low-iron off the tee.
Much like football coaching genius Bill Walsh, nothing in Tiger’s game plan was ever left to chance.
He could aggressive on command, but in the ultimate thinking sport, Tiger played chess as the field played checkers.
Getty Images/Getty Images
Hitting a long-iron to a chosen spot on a green is an exercise in masochism.
It is impossible to put enough spin on it to keep it from bounding either off the green or, if it stays on, on the right tier for a birdie putt.
Unless you just happen to be Jack Nicklaus.
In a career that pretty much was a highlight film, Nicklaus’ ultimate highlight came on the 71st hole of the 1972 United States Open.
The par-three 17th at Pebble Beach will make anyone’s knees shake. Either with a fierce wind like that day or not—with a tiny hourglass-shaped green surrounded by sand and Open rough—even a bogey can be a good score.
Taking a one-iron—a club so hated because it really cannot shape a shot at all and now virtually gone from golfer’s bags—of all clubs of the tee, Nicklaus hit his tee shot on the green, one bounce and a foot away for birdie.
It has been said that Jack could see his landing spots and hit them within a five-yard circle. With a long-iron, that is pretty remarkable.
Nicklaus retired with 46 top three finishes in majors. Eighteen wins, 19 places and nine shows.
Seve's Short Game
David Cannon/Getty Images
The ability to score when missing a green is an art form that is a gift.
When one has the gifts from within 50 yards that Seve Ballesteros had with his wedges, it was simply watching art being created.
To be successful at the Open Championship, you have to know how to play out of absolutely horrible lies just feet from the hole.
From either those pot bunkers that are a staple of links golf to the wiry, wispy, tall rough that catches good shots, you have to have an attitude that you are going to make that shot before you hit it.
Seve did, and made his fair share. He won three Open Championships and two green jackets by being able to not make a bogey from off the green.
Andrew Redington/Getty Images
While you could take any of the greats of the game and take at least a couple of things that made them really great, there was nobody better with the putter when he was on than Tiger Woods.
If one watches the highlights of his blowout wins in majors, they will see that he never missed an important putt from eight feet from the hole.
Tiger, very quickly, understood about the speed of greens and how to read the sharp breaks that are a huge factor of major championship golf.
When he won the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach, he never had a three-putt hole. 72 firm, fast and difficult greens, and he never had more than two putts on any of them.
It is one thing to be able to hit your spots and give yourself a good chance for either a birdie or tap-in par, but to do it for four straight days in a tournament you where you have lapped the field is remarkable.
If Tiger ever regains his form from those years, it will be because his putter will be as white-hot as it was that summer.