Judy Rankin is one of the most astute analysts in the game, and when somebody asked her on Wednesday about Michelle Wie’s strange putting stance, the 26-time LPGA Tour winner didn’t hold back. She gave Wie a what-for and a why are you doing this and a stop doing this during a teleconference in advance of next week’s first LPGA major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Anybody who has seen Wie on a putting green recently must be wondering what’s going on with her. She hunches over the ball so much that it appears she could touch the ground without any further bend. Her back is at some 90 degrees to the sky; she putts right-handed and she’s putting just about right-angled, or maybe more. Her stance looks painful. It’s certainly unconventional, not that there’s anything all that conventional about putting anymore. See under “anchoring,” or “claw grip,” etc., etc.
“I’ll be as candid as I can,” Rankin said in response to the reporter who asked about Wie’s wacky wonder of a stance. “I see nothing good about it. I don’t think in that position a person can ever clearly or comfortably see their line.”
Rankin wasn’t mincing words. She would love to see Wie play better golf – her game has fallen so far – and that’s why she must have been speaking so candidly. She’s also seen it all in golf, in men’s and women’s golf, amateur and pro. When Rankin speaks, it’s worth paying attention.
Meanwhile, Rankin’s comments put me in mind of another odd way of putting that a pro golfer named Leo Diegel once used. Now, Diegel could play himself some golf. Born in Detroit in 1889, Diegel won 30 PGA Tour events between 1920 and 1934. He won the 1928 and 1929 PGA Championships. He won four Canadian Opens, in 1924, 1925, 1928, and 1929.
He was also a golfer who thought about the game, all the time. Maybe it’s not so unusual, given the way that golf can consume an enthusiast, but he was known to get up from a dinner table and demonstrate a stance or swing. Well, who of us hasn’t done that? Nick Price once told me that he busted a chandelier in a hotel room in Dublin when he was a young tour pro. He was working on his swing. Can’t blame him at all. Price, of course, went on to win two PGA Championships and an Open Championship.
Putting came to flummox Diegel, and so in 1924 he adopted a curious stance. He stood over the ball, well, he hunched over the ball, with his legs far apart and his elbows akimbo. His arms were parallel to the ground. His right elbow pointed directly to the right, and his left to the left.
The method didn’t hurt. He won his two majors after changing things up from the norm. He won that quartet of Canadian Opens. Now, he found golf, and himself, and the mystery of why he couldn’t play better more often, so bewildering that he decided to undergo psychoanalysis. Again, can’t blame him. He cared about his game. Gotta figure it out, and all that.
Bernard Darwin, the grandson of Charles, and the major champion of golf writers, came up with the perfect name for Diegel’s putting style. He called it “Diegeling.” The term stuck. Eventually Diegel was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, in the Veteran’s category. He died in 1951.
Walter Hagen, whose 11 majors put him behind only Jack Nicklaus (18) and Tiger Woods (14) in this exalted category, attended Diegel’s funeral. He was quite a wag, and, thinking of how his friend and colleague arranged himself over the ball on the putting green, he came up with an ideal line.
“How they gonna fit him in that box” Hagen wondered.
Let’s just say that Diegel adopted a putting style that was out of the box. Wie has done the same. Rankin would like her to pack it in, put it back in the box, so to speak.
“And, if I were advising here,” Rankin said, “I would tell her, enough with that experiment, let’s do something that might be more productive.”
Diegeling, perhaps? Or, as somebody suggested as the appropriate term should Wie go to it, Wiegeling?
Wie not? It did the job for Diegel, and maybe it would work for Wie.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at email@example.com . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein