TOUR Insider: Vegas seeks the right putting solution

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Jhonattan Vegas runs up to the 18th green on the final day of the Humana Challenge in 2011. He would eventually defeat Gary Woodland in a playoff for his first PGA TOUR title.
January 18, 2012
Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

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Jhonattan Vegas made a clutch putt to win the Humana Challenge last year, and he hasn't made many since. The PGA TOUR rookie followed up his victory with a near-win the next week in the Farmers Insurance Open, but he then went into a prolonged slump.

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Vegas says one of his problems is his body type -- It seems Vegas has the wing span of a pterodactyl.

That's both good and bad in golf.

Vegas, who is 6-foot-2, has unusually long arms. He guessed his shirt sleeve length at somewhere around 38 inches. That wing span of almost 100 inches creates a very wide swing plane, creating a lot of clubhead speed that enables Vegas to routinely swat 300 yard drives.

It can also create putting problems.

"I want to get my arms extended their full length and want them to naturally hang when I address the ball," said Vegas.

Golf instructors refer to this as "keeping the triangle together." The triangle being formed by the forearms and shoulder blades.

"Last year, I was putting with a shaft between 35 and 35 and a half inches and it still wasn't right," said Vegas. I thought I should try 36 inches, but instead, I am now at 34."

Like so many things in the golf swing, the opposite is true. We hit down to make the ball go up, we swing out to the right to make the ball curve left and to extend the arms while putting the shaft should be shorter not longer.

Vegas is a bend-at-the-waist putter and a longer shaft did not allow his 38-inch arms to fully extend. With a 34-inch shaft, Vegas arms hang naturally from his side, allowing them to extend throughout the putting stroke which should result in a better roll.

How did Vegas discover the proper length shaft for him?

"Man, I spent so many hours trying different things on the putting green. I think this is right."

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The PGA TOUR's John Swantek visits with the defending champion ahead of his title defense.

It may be right but it is still a work in progress. He ranks 115th in Strokes-Gained Putting for the first two weeks in Hawaii.

"Those greens in Hawaii still kicked me," laughed Vegas.

With those words of wisdom, Vegas returned to rolling putt after putt toward the cup in the heat of the afternoon sun.

JUST DUCKY: SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio announcer Dennis Paulson is a popular man this week. Dennis belongs to a shooting club not far from La Quinta, and duck season is still open. Several PGA TOUR players are avid hunters and Paulson had not problem putting together a group. It took David Toms less than two seconds to accept an invitation.

GOING LOW: Look for players to be aggressive at both the Palmer Private Course and Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West. In 2011, the Palmer Course played to an average of 69.09, the Nicklaus course averaged 69.21. That ranks as the second and third easiest courses on TOUR last season. Players try to post a reasonable score at La Quinta Country Club, 70.02 scoring average, then go deep at PGA West.

AND THE WINNER IS: Brian Gay. I like a longshot this week. Gay has three top-20 finishes at the Humana Challenge over the last three years, including a tie for fifth last year. The courses play into the strengths of his game, Gay is not overly long, but length is not needed this week. You have to keep the ball in play and hit greens.

Gay does both of those very well. I also saw something in his game last week at the Sony Open. Gay is third in scoring average this year and scrambles well -- he was 6-for-6 in bunker saves at the Sony Open. He tied for sixth last week and I think Gay is ready to score a win this week.

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