Thanks to reader Sean for the heads up on this great unbylined story in the USA Today (by Tom Spousta?) on the lost art of shotmaking. Some of the juiciest quotes, starting with Lee Trevino:
"You could punch little shots in there, punch little shots in here. Low drivers down the left side. Fly the ball to a spot and let it roll. Punch shots into greens as hard as bricks. ... You had to place every shot in the right position," Trevino says. "I was carving drivers left to right. I'd even hit some irons right to left. Jack was doing the same thing. People think all Jack did was hit it 5 miles and up in the air. He could hit it low, fade it, hook it; he could do whatever the heck he wanted with it.
"They called me more of a shot-maker than Jack," Trevino continues, "because I didn't have the high ball. I had to hit more weird shots than he did. Heck, they think Tiger Woods can hit a ball high? Shoot, Jack could hit a 1-iron so high and it would come down so soft you could catch it in your mouth."
"It's non-existent. The kids out here are just hitting it as hard as they can and taking short clubs and whacking it out of the rough," says Kenny Perry, who has noticed fewer players in recent years working on shaping shots at the practice range.
"It's a dying art. There's just not many people that even want to try to hit those shots," says Corey Pavin, the 1995 U.S. Open champion who sealed his victory with a 4-wood approach shot he shaped right-to-left at the 72nd hole.
You can add Trevino to the anti-America, technophobic agenda setters:
"There's no such animal as shot-making anymore," Trevino says. "And it's not the fault of the player. It's the equipment."
Vijay has a simple take on the matter, and our friends in Fairhaven will probably sending the USA Today a love note for the second graph:
"The ball flies so much straighter now that it's almost useless to even try it," Singh says. "If you want to hit a fade, you really have to move it left to right to get something out of it. If you can hit it straight and long, why try to shape it?"
Pavin, Furyk, Perry and other players agree things began to spin toward less shot-making in the mid-1990s, when Titleist came out with the Tour 90 and Tour 100 model balls. Players liked the ball but noticed that a different dimple pattern made it more difficult to fade or draw shots as far as they did.
"It's almost impossible to hit those shots anymore," Pavin says.
The story also looks at modern course design as part of the problem:
Modern architecture, with its forced carries over hazards and elevated greens, also conspired with technology such as cavity-backed irons to force players into an aerial game.
"A lot of courses these days are built for high, hard shots," says Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion. "The guys have the talent. ... It's just not called for as much."
Still, Furyk says fewer players using less imagination means shot-making "is slowly going to diminish over time."
Nicklaus agrees that if players don't face such adversity, they won't develop those skills. To that end, he used thick-pronged rakes that left wide rows in sand traps at his Memorial Tournament two weeks ago. Bunkers truly became hazards rather than a safe haven from thick rough.
"They're quite capable of playing the shots. But they've never grown up having to play shots," Nicklaus says.