My Secret Yardage Book and the US Open Local Qualifier of 2010

If you were watching Saturday’s telecast of the Regions Charity Classic, you may have seen my interview with Billy Andrade on the 16th fairway during play.  Unbeknown to me, the announcers were having a lengthy discussion surrounding this secret yardage book in the back of my pocket.

Additionally, you may have seen the interview I did with Dave Marr at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in the previous tournament when he caught me during a practice round charting the levels on the green.  Many have witnessed me charting the greens on the Champion’s Tour.    “What the heck are you doing?” is a common question.  I’ve decided to save the answer for my  “gallery” and noone else!  Keep it a secret!

Several weeks ago I became interested in a new technology of green reading called “Aiming Point”.  (Ironic that the phrase is part of my Impact Zone teaching)  I had seen “Aiming Point” being used for a short stint at CBS.  The technology created a visual curve on the screen precisely where the break would be.  It got me thinking, “how do they do that?”

So I called Mark Sweeney, the president of Aiming Point, and we had an introductory discussion.  He told me that one of his prize students, Tim Tucker, was caddying for Peter Jacobsen in the Legends of Golf in Savannah, GA, where I would be working my last telecast for CBS.  I called Tim and we agreed to meet after Saturday’s round.

Tim spent about an hour with me, showing me the 9 inch digital leveler he used to determine the fall line (straight putt) on the slope, then using the leveler to determine the % slope.  He showed me his yardage book in which the greens were covered with lines and %.  From that information, he showed me the chart above that figures the inches outside the cup needed to figure the correct break.

It has taken some getting used to, but I really like the system.  I’ve never had a system of reading greens before.  I began to think how useful this could be if my caddy could generate this information for me.  I might not even have to play a practice round.  So I put this theory to the test this past week in Wallace, North Carolina at the River Landing Golf Club.  I had two training sessions with a new caddy, Cliff Robinson, who lives near me in Chapel Hill, NC.  Cliff had caddied 20 years on the PGA Tour but retired about 15 years ago to raise a family.  He came highly recommended from Mike Hicks, my friend and Payne Stewart’s old caddy and I was considering hiring him.  The Qualifier was held last Wednesday, May 19th.  I couldn’t find a hotel room in the area, so I decided to stay home and practice at Brier Creek, and to send Cliff down on Tuesday to chart the greens and check the yardages.

The result was a 5 under par 67, good for a spot in a three-man play-off for two spots.  The local qualifier had 87 contestants for 5 spots.  All three of us parred the first hole of the playoff, then we headed to #9.  My fellow competitors missed the green, but I hit a good drive and a great 8 iron 7 ½ feet past the flag.  The hole was cut on a 1.3 slope and I was in the 130 degree angle.  After doing some calculations, I figured the break at ¾ in outside the hole.  The read was perfect, and I won the play-off securing a spot in the Regional US Open Qualifier in Columbus, OH on June 7th.

All for now, “putt em straight!”