New putting tricks for two not-quite-old dogs
Both men have changed their putting strokes, Weir going to a hurry-up kind of stroke that looks almost shocking, coming as it does from a guy who is oh-so- deliberate, with occasional gusts to glacial. Ames, meanwhile, is trying the left-hand-low, cross-handed style.
Ames is 45 and Weir will be 40 in May. Plenty of golfers a lot younger than them have gone to far more drastic putting styles: Remember Sergio Garcia briefly with a belly putter, or any number of youngsters trying the claw grip.
Weir is three shots out of the top spot on a crowded first page of leaders after shooting 73 to go with his opening 67. Ames, who needs a very good finish here – probably no worse than a solo tie for fifth -- to move up the four spaces in the world rankings he needs to be eligible for the Masters, worked hard to recover from Thursday’s one-over 73 with a one-under 71 that brings him back for the weekend.
Whatever happens on the weekend, both men are thinking about the longer term than the shorter. Perhaps both recognized that their careers had stalled and that they weren’t getting any younger.
They both look like different men on the greens. Ames, whose ball striking has been very good this year, simply needed to start making more putts and after two poor putting weeks in Hawaii, he went this route. You can see it in his play, the confident way he rolls the ball now.
He teed off at No. 10 and went two under on his first nine holes, making birdie at No. 12 from 11 feet and pitching within about an inch at 16 for another birdie. After saving par from the sand at No. 1, he knocked in a 10-footer at the third for birdie.His only poor putt was at the seventh, when he missed a five-footer for par after a nice bunker shot.
This round, like Weir’s, came in a windy afternoon when par was a good score. All the low scoring had come in the morning.
Weir has been hitting the ball well on recent Fridays. He shot 64 at the Honda, tying the course record along with a few others that day, and posted a 65 at Doral in the second round. On each occasion, he then backed up on the weekend to 26th place and after Honda, he shed his old putting style and adopted the new one.
“The last two events I’ve played really well on Fridays and stumbled on the weekend. I think I’m trying too hard on the weekend,’’ he said. “I’m within three or four (strokes) of the lead and I’m just trying too hard. I’ve been working so hard on my game. I think I need to relax a little bit and let it happen.
“I haven’t quite put four rounds together,’’ he said of a season in which his best finish is sixth at the Bob Hope in his 2010 debut. “I’ve been fighting myself a little bit.’’
Weir plans to take next week off and work on his game for the Masters, although he hasn’t scheduled any early practice trips to Augusta.
“I’m not really thinking about Augusta yet. I’m trying to do well this week. I think the best preparation is just playing well, gaining confidence going in there.
“If you’re marginal on your game, it gets exposed at Augusta more than anywhere.’’