PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Insider: Players share tips from fellow pros
July 19, 2022
By Bob McClellan , PGATOUR.COM
- July 19, 2022
- Jerry Kelly attributes some of his success to tips he has received from Steve Stricker. (Tracy Wilcox/Getty Images)
In the wake of Jerry Kelly’s pair of recent victories, including the Kaulig Companies Championship, since receiving some putting advice from Steve Stricker in late May, more than 20 PGA TOUR Champions players were asked for the best tip they’d ever received from a fellow pro.
Ben Crenshaw, 70, was cited early and often. Known for his fluid putting stroke, the two-time Masters champion was mentioned not only for putting advice but general knowledge of the game.
But several players also said it was rare to seek advice and/or use it from a fellow pro. First off, many of them still employ teachers and swing coaches. Secondly, it’s rare that a fellow pro knows another’s game so well that his advice is as meaningful and penetrating as Stricker’s seemingly has been for Kelly.
Here are the insights PGA TOUR Champions players shared when asked about tips from fellow pros.
The Crenshaw Bunch
Crenshaw won 19 PGA TOUR titles but interestingly never won on PGA TOUR Champions despite making 56 starts in his first four seasons of eligibility.
Still, because of his play at the Masters and the fact he attended the University of Texas, which has produced countless PGA TOUR members, his name permeates the game at the highest levels.
“Ben Crenshaw told me he didn't look at the golf ball when putting,” 11-time PGA TOUR Champions winner Scott McCarron said. “He looked at a spot out by the toe of the putter and watched the toe pass that spot while putting. This was at Western Open in Chicago in 1995. I have not looked at the golf ball since!”
Steve Flesch, winner of this year’s PGA TOUR Champions Mitsubishi Electric Classic, also picked up putting advice from Crenshaw years ago.
“He once told me that to reduce anxiety over putts just simply exhale like a tire leaking air while stroking the ball,” Flesch said. “It helps calm your nerves and lessen tension throughout your stroke.
“It works. I still use it every time I play.”
PGA TOUR Champions veteran Woody Austin mentioned a non-putting tip he received from Crenshaw.
“It was about ball position,” Austin said. “He said when you’re struggling with your game, check your ball position first. He felt it causes more problems than swing mechanics.”Ben Crenshaw has long been known as a maestro on the greens. (Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
Sluman on the rarity of tips that work
Sluman, 64, won six times on the PGA TOUR, including the 1988 PGA Championship, and six times on PGA TOUR Champions. If golf perspective is what one seeks, the Florida State alum has it. In September 2019 he became the 21st player to make 1,000 starts across the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions. He had more than 700 on the TOUR and has surpassed more than 300 on Champions.
“I'd have to say I never got any kind of tip from another player that turned it around that week for me,” Sluman said.
He continued. “Most pros don't practice what they are bad at, and most pros’ lessons to another pro are usually what they are working on. Just seems that's the way it happens. You mostly get a Band-Aid tip from another pro, but your coach and or caddie are the ones that can make a big difference quickly.
“I'm not saying your fellow pros aren't trying to help, but they don't really know your game like your coach/caddie does. I think we give each other emotional support more than swing stuff.”
Not that Sluman won’t listen to a fellow pro if something helps.
“Mark Brooks gave me a tip last year that worked quite well,” said Sluman of Brooks, one of the 20 players with more pro starts than Sluman. “I was trying to hit a fade with my swing and Mark was watching. Obviously the ball wasn't fading. Mark simply said, ‘Why don't you try and fade it?’
“He thought it looked like I was hoping it would fade instead of really trying to make it fade. Subtle difference but it unlocked something.”Jeff Sluman received some helpful perspective from Mark Brooks in regard to fading the ball. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
One journeyman said to the other
Kirk Triplett, 60, fit the mold of a journeyman during his time on the PGA TOUR. He did post three career victories, all between 2000 and 2006. But he has had a career renaissance on PGA TOUR Champions, posting eight victories. He narrowly missed picking up his ninth this year, when he came in solo second to Kelly at the Principal Charity Classic.
Triplett recalled some advice he received before turning pro from Jeff Thomsen, whose brief career in the 1980s was definitely that of a journeyman. Still, Triplett not only took the advice but said he has passed it on over the years.
“He told me three things to do as a rookie," Triplett said. "The first was to play the clubs and swing that got you there. There is lots of equipment and instruction distraction out there.
“The second was to wait around the first tee (on a practice day) and when good players come by, ask to join them.”
And the final piece of advice?
“When you miss a cut, go watch the leaders play nine holes on Saturday. You'll see they aren't perfect, but they are getting a score.
“I've passed that on a few times over the years,” Triplett said. “Nobody ever came back and said it helped, so who knows?”Kirk Triplett (left) walks with Jerry Kelly (right). (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Turning to a Tai Chi master
Billy Andrade recalls filming a commercial in Miami for the Southern Company. It was an all-day shoot, with Andrade and some youths hitting balls on a range at the range cart.
The shoot included a Tai Chi master from Brazil, who was teaching yoga poses to Andrade. The Tai Chi master had never set foot on a golf course.
“He asked me, ‘When do you exhale in your swing?’” Andrade said. “I said I had no idea. He said in order to get a perfect pose in Tai Chi, you let your breath out so you can be more supple. So he figured to have a perfect swing and flow and balance in golf, you can’t be doing it holding your breath. I said, ‘You know what? You’re absolutely right.’
“I’ve worked with or talked to all of the top teachers -- Butch Harmon, Davis Love III’s dad back when I was in college. No one ever talked about breathing. It’s the greatest tip I’ve ever gotten. Before I hit every shot I let the breath out of my body. It gives me the ability to have that flow in my golf swing. I feel like as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better not holding my breath anymore.”Billy Andrade was recently named recipient of the 2022 Payne Stewart Award. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Tuesday practice buddies
If a player on PGA TOUR Champions is going to get a tip and use it, it probably is going to come from whomever he practices with on Tuesdays.
Some Tuesday groups are tightknit. All of the guys know the Kevin Sutherland-Paul Goydos-Steve Flesch troika. UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe also are in a close triangle with Glen Day.
Day said sometimes players don’t listen that well to each other.
“Jerry had two things going for him. He and Steve are really good friends, and Steve is one of the best putters in the world and has been for years,” Day said. “Steve knows Jerry’s game. So I’m sure they went to the putting green, Jerry took in what Steve said and if it clicks, it works.”
Day and Jobe each spent some time this season working with the other.
When PGA TOUR Champions gathered in Naples, Florida, for the first full-field event of 2022, Day went to the range with Jobe and took a video camera.
“I took some videos and we talked about what we talked about. Let him see what was going on (with) what he was wanting to do,” Day said. “And he went, ‘Holy cow! You’re exactly right.’ Your friends are always trying to help you.”
Jobe said he and Day talked about how the club and body work at the bottom of the swing.
“I have a tendency to get a ‘high’ handle,” Jobe said. “So he gave me a few tips and I got off to my best start to a season in a few years. It really helped.”
Jobe had three top-10s in the first six events, including a tie for second at the Insperity Invitational on May 1. The next week, PGA TOUR Champions arrived in the greater Atlanta area for the Mitsubishi Electric Classic, and Jobe dropped some balls on the range, grabbed a chair and sat and worked with Day to straighten him out.
“I’ve been injured all year, and I was just really struggling when we got to Atlanta,” Day said. “Brandt and I had rented a house. Monday night I was in a bad mood, and I told him, 'If you mention golf, I’m leaving. I will have a glass of wine and we can watch baseball.'
“The next day on the range he throws some balls down and says, ‘We’re gonna fix you right now.’ He sat there and worked with me for about an hour, trying to develop a swing for playing with the injury I have right now. And I finished seventh that week. I played really well.”
It was Day’s only top-10 this season.
“We are a traveling circus,” Day said. “Our wives are friends, we’re friends; whether you’re friends or not, you know him. I’ve played a lot with Paul, Kevin and Steve. They hang out, but I’m still friends with them. The putter I’m using is one Steve had a weight for them and said, 'I’ll send you some.' So he sent me some weights for my putter.
“We all try to help. At some point we’ve all asked a question of somebody. It’s one big circus, but we’re one big family.”Paul Goydos (left) shares a laugh with Steve Flesch (right). (Quinn Harris/Getty Images)