Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Look At The Results of the Latest Poll Question

Asked this in the most recent poll 'If You Could Hit It Like One Historic Golfer In Their Prime With Modern Equipment, Who Would It Be?'

Here's the results.

  • Jamie Sadlowski - 3 votes

This is either for the golfer who would love to just out and out bomb it or the golfer who thinks that they could harness Sadlowski's power so they could use it for serious golf tournaments and Long Drive competitions. It does have to be pretty cool for all of the PGA Tour pros to stop and watch you hit shots.

  • Johnny Miller - 7 votes
  • Lee Trevino - 7 votes

Miller probably got votes for those who really understood his prime and that 63 at Oakmont at the US Open. What probably hurt him is how long he's been away from the game and I generally think golfers are not in love with his swing.

Trevino is one of my all time faves and is probably hurt a bit by his lack of power. That being said, from tee to green he hit it about as pure, consistent and accurate as anybody. And he was absolutely deadly with a wedge in his hand.

  • Bobby Jones - 9 votes

A bit surprised how many votes he got. Tough to gauge how truly great he was since he played in a time when there were not a lot of golfers and it's hard to get a good sense of what he did so well. Was he the best ballstriker of his era? Was he long? Was he a great putter? Questions like that are rarely asked or answered. I do think some of his votes came from the crowd that were curious to see how well he would hit it with modern equipment.

  • Mac O'Grady - 11 votes
  • Byron Nelson - 11 votes

Many consider O'Grady the greatest ballstriker of all time. I've heard some phenomenal stories of his ballstriking and the fact that he can do it both left and right handed. What most people don't realize is just how long off the tee O'Grady was in his prime, routinely in the top 10 in driving distance when he was on tour. However, he was always a horrendous putter. He does have a boatload of serious followers. Byron of course is known for winning 16 tournaments in one year and having the all time scoring average record for a season that lasted almost 50 years.

  • George Knudson - 12 votes
  • Moe Norman - 12 votes

How fitting the two Canadians finished with the same amount of votes. Knudson gained a lot of popularity on this blog after this video posted by John Erickson (aka Lagpressure)

I thought long and hard about my answer to this question and I decided I would go with the player who I thought was the best ballstriker of all time. From there I went with Moe, but again a lot of thinking went into this. Most of what I heard from people that played with Moe (and I know about 15 golfers who have played with Moe) it usually goes like this 'Moe had a funny swing, hit everything pure and straight just like Iron Byron. Shot a 65 and should have shot 60 if he would have just taken some time to read his putts!'

Those who disagree with Moe being the greatest ballstriker ever usually say they were impressed with his ballstriking, but he wasn't long and more importantly, he just hit everything dead straight and didn't work the ball. We've talked about the fallacy of Moe not being long off the tee (most of his work was shown when he was in his late 60's and the exhibitions focused on uncanny accuracy instead of power and many who played with Moe in his prime have said he had ample power). But I really started to think about Moe's problem with 'straightness.' But I think his ability to hit it dead straight time and time again makes a case for him being the greatest ballstriker ever.

The difference between somebody who can hit it dead straight like Moe time and time again and a golfer who can really work it or hits the same stock draw or stock fade favors Moe, IMO. I like to work the ball and it has helped me become a better ballstriker. However, it's because I simply cannot count on hitting the ball straight on command.

For instance, if I'm playing a par-3 with the flag tucked behind the bunker on the right, the play for me is to aim at the middle of the green and play for a small fade. If it fades, I'm in great position. But it's more than a failsafe than anything because if I do hit it straight then I wind up okay in the middle of the green. And if I push it, I may wind up doing very well. However, that's all because I cannot rely on aiming at the flag and hitting it straight. Moe had that ability, others did not. Some will say 'well, what about playing for doglegs? Well, Moe could just cheat down the side with a straight ball time and time again, so it wasn't like he was at a disadvantage. I just find that Moe could rely on the shot he wanted to hit than any other golfer. Remember, Hogan said that if you found him on in two at #11 at Augusta it's because he pulled it. Moe would've aimed at the stick and would have been purposedly on the green in regulation.

Of course, most of this 'greatest ballstriker' ever talk is splitting hairs, so there really is no one absolute answer.

  • Jack Nicklaus - 13 votes

Nicklaus definitely got votes for people who consider him the greatest of all time. And in my book he is until Tiger wins at least as many majors as he does. I used to think Tiger would do it with ease, now I'm not so sure. I'm starting to think that Tiger will eventually pass him, but he won't breeze by him.

At one point I would have taken Tiger's ballstriking over Nicklaus' and not blinked an eye. But now I'm not so sure. Jack was extremely long, and perhaps the longest guy on Tour. Tiger used to be arguably the longest guy on Tour, but at 33 years old it's obvious he's really nowhere close now. Jack was still arguably the longest on Tour into his 40's. Jack was much more accurate off the tee and a better long iron player, although Tiger is usually great with the long irons as well, but Jack's long iron play was off the charts. Tiger certainly has him beat in short iron play and that's probably part of what hurt Jack getting votes.

  • Tiger Woods - 17 votes

Tiger and his ballstriking is a tricky subject to get into. I think right now, for the 'best player in the world' standards it has sucked and sucked for quite awhile. But the ardent Tiger fan will think you're nuts because he is the best player in the world and in their mind he's the greatest player of all time. So how can he be a lousy ballstriker?

Again, it's by Tour standards and 'greatest player in the world' standards. I cannot really think of another #1 ranked player in the world in recent memory that struggled with their ballstriking as much as Tiger has. And to his testament, that's what makes him so amazing...he's clearly the #1 player in the world and he continually fights his golf swing in tournaments.

But it's amazing how the steadfast Tiger supporters completely neglect how great of a putter and scrambler the guy is. He's off the charts in that category as far as I'm concerned. And while he's no longer one of the Tour's longer hitters, he's playing most par 72's as par 68's. So if can hit a few drives down the middle and get some wedges in his hand, it's birdie time.

I get asked what I would do if Tiger asked for help. I would tell him to go to one of the following instructors:

- Lynn Blake
- Ted Fort
- Brian Manzella
- David Orr
- Michael Jacobs

Somebody who can customize a swing pattern for him instead of working on one particular pattern that they give pretty much every student. And furthermore, 'let them sell you' on how to improve your swing. I think a lot of Tiger's problems is he had philosophies of the golf swing that remain dear to his heart that may not suit his swing and he's unwilling to let them go.

  • Sam Snead - 26 votes

Snead is beloved by a lot of golfers because he was such a talented ballstriker who had such a smooth, flowing swing. Plus, he was arguably the longest golfer on Tour for years. Back when I first got into the game I had the privilege of watching a video of Snead play a round of golf when he was probably in his 40's. Everything was donw the middle and LONG. Like getting on in two on 560 yard par 5's in the days of steel shafted persimmon drivers and balls that didn't travel very far. Wish I still had that video.

I think the reason why Snead got votes that Hogan didn't get was mostly a power issue. Although Hogan had ample power and was quite long for a guy his size, Snead's power and ballstriking ability would definitely be fun to watch with modernized equipment.

  • Ben Hogan - 100 votes

Can't say I blame anybody here. There's a few holes of Hogan in a Shell's Wonderful World of Golf video on YouTube where every drive is 'perfect' according to the announcers and he's pretty much all over the flagstick on every approach shot be it with a 4-wood or a wedge. I never really bought into 'Hogan wasn't long.' He wasn't the longest guy on Tour but I believe he was probably middle of the pack if not above the middle of the pack for most of his prime, which in my book is still long when you look at it from a broad point of view. Plus, here was a guy that was really lucky to be alive after that car crash and golfers thought golfing again was out of the question. And people forget that he had some years taken away from him due to his service in WWII.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and we started to discuss what type of clubs Hogan would be using today. We decided that saying he would use 'Hogan' clubs was a bit of a cop out. I think most golfers would probably see him using Mizuno or Miura irons. However, I actually would be a bit surprised by that. Nothing against Mr. Hogan, but many Americans from his generation did not like the Japanese due to WWII and that would probably play a factor.

My guess is that Mr. Hogan would probably look for an American company to sign with and somebody that would give him free reign to design his own clubs and do it with the utmost precision and the highest of quality. I think the irons are pretty simple, an old school blade design. The driver he would probably go to a driver that with a bit smaller clubhead, maybe 400 cc's, that was probably heavier than most. Hogan really hated lighter golf clubs. I wouldn't be completely shocked if he went to a MOI designed driver, because he was a guy that hated the hook with a passion and those drivers are hard to hook (at least for me anyway). But he would probably want to work the ball. I think Titleist or maybe Adams would be his company of choice.


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