By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
The stat is eye-opening. Ricky
Barnes ranks 180th in strokes gained putting -- and in relation to
the field average, he's been on the negative side of the ledger in
13 of the 19 events he's played this year. So Barnes knew he had to
do something. Particularly after he shot four sub-par rounds last
week at The Greenbrier Classic and only tied for 38th. "Yeah, I
played well last week," Barnes said. "Just didn't make many putts
last week. Like you said, four rounds -- my caddie and I were
talking (and we hadn't done that) since Pebble Beach this year. It
was kind of nice to get back in that frame of mind shooting in the
60s every round." He's added some weight to the head of his No. 9
Odyssey putter and practiced diligently. Judging by Thursday's 64
that propelled him to the early lead at the John Deere Classic, the
hard work is paying off. Barnes made eight birdies and just one
bogey in the first round. The key? He only had 26 putts after
hitting 83 percent of his greens in regulation. "That's kind of
what we've been doing and what's been lacking for me finishing in
the top 10, top 5, and competing," Barnes said. "Hit enough greens.
I think another 15 or 16 today. Did a lot of that last week.
It's also a little misleading sometimes with the proximity of the
hole when you feel like you're striking it well and not taking
advantage of the opportunities when he have 'em. "It was fortunate
or nice to see that I did that today."