PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Sauers rides hot putter into Charles Schwab Cup Championship
November 04, 2020
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- November 04, 2020
- Gene Sauers is trending nicely heading to Arizona. (Chris Keane/Getty Images)
Gene Sauers has had a different caddie for each of the past three tournaments on PGA TOUR Champions, saying his bagman of the past four years essentially fired him before the SAS Championship in Cary, North Carolina.
“That was the first time that ever happened to me,” Sauers said this week. “He just decided to go a different direction. Said there wasn’t anything he thought he could help me with anymore. Might be kicking himself now.”
Sauers, 58, has posted a pair of top-five finishes since the split, his best results of the coronavirus-shortened 2020 year which will roll into 2021. He was T5 at last week’s TimberTech Championship in Boca Raton, Florida, and he had a T4 at the SAS. It was his fourth consecutive top 10 at Prestonwood Country Club, so that might not have been the best time for his caddie to look for another bag.
Sauers, who has moved up to 24th in the Charles Schwab Cup standings on the strength of his recent play, credited a hot putter for his first consecutive top-10s since October 2018.
“The putter has always given me problems,” said Sauers, who hopes the putter stays hot for this week’s Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix, the final Champions Tour event of 2020. “I feel like I’ve always hit my irons pretty well, hit the ball pretty close to the hole. Just have never been able to get enough putts to go in.
“I’ve been working with Ian Baker-Finch and Brad Faxon in Palm Beach (Florida). I like to pick their brains and see what I can tweak and work into my putting.”
He said Baker-Finch worked with him on having less of a forward press at address. Sauers said it was making him block his putts. With the head of his putter flatter on the ground at address, he’s able to release the club and hit through the ball. He believes it means every putt has a better chance to go in, and that feeling is feeding his confidence in the flat stick.
Sauers, who started putting crosshanded a few years ago, was 17th in putting average at the SAS and fifth in putting average at TimberTech. He ranks only 41st in putting average for the year, while he’s fifth in greens in regulation, ninth in total driving and 14th in ball striking. What does all of that mean? That the Georgia native still has plenty of game, but that it really has been the putter that has held him back this year.
“I do feel like I can still win. If I didn’t I wouldn’t still be out here,” said Sauers, a three-time winner on the PGA TOUR whose one and only win on PGA TOUR Champions came at the 2016 U.S. Senior Open. “I think I have another three or four good years possibly. But I think I can (win) as long as I stay healthy.
“I’m kind tired right now. I don’t know why. I’m getting on 15 or 16 and going, ‘OK, just two more holes, hang on.’ I gotta do some kind of cardio once this last tournament is done and start all over and get back in shape. I need to lose a little bit of my gut. Push back from the table, but I love to eat. I gotta get stronger with more endurance. And I know I can. If I lose five or 10 pounds, I think I can do it again. I know I can.”
Sauers, who was born in Savannah and lived there his entire life, bought a townhouse in Palm Beach in December 2019. He said he’d spent a few weeks every winter there for the past six years playing golf with fellow Champions Tour players and longtime friends Mark Calcavecchia, Russ Cochran and Olin Browne. It has been his way of staying sharp and getting ready for each new year.
But now he says he’s selling the family home in Savannah and once that’s done he and his wife will look for a house in Palm Beach Gardens or Jupiter or somewhere nearby. Sauers wants the warmer weather and easier access to deep sea fishing, one of his passions.
“I don’t want to have to go so many miles offshore to find a sailfish,” Sauers said.
One way or another, maybe he still can reel in a big one.