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The Man Who Can Putt Like a Boy

"You can make the sound change just by using a different golf ball," Faxon says. He finds four different Titleists—a Tour Balata, a Pro V1, an NXT and a Professional. He bounces each of them off the putters. To him, the sounds are as different and distinct as the opening notes in an Eric Clapton guitar solo. To the visitor, they sound like this:

Click.

Click.

Click.

Click.

Let's talk about your putting stroke, the visitor suggests. Faxon agrees.

One of the more remarkable things about his stroke is that there's nothing remarkable about it. It has no gimmicks. He stands with his eyes a shade inside the intended line, holding the club gently with a reverse-overlap grip, left hand strong, right hand low. There's a barely perceptible forward press at the start. His shoulders propel the stroke, but his wrists and elbows are soft, not locked. His putter's face opens very slightly and moves a shade inside the line as he takes it back. It squares at impact, releases and moves slightly inside the line. It's all done smoothly and easily, the way a hawk carves circles in the air.

The stroke has evolved over the years, Faxon explains. When he was a kid, he tried to keep his wrists locked and make the putter blade go straight up and down the target line. In college (he was an all-American and a Walker Cup player at Furman) he loosened the stroke up and added the forward press. The final refinements came over the past six or seven years, when he began working with Cameron.

Cameron has an elaborate system for taping and analyzing putting strokes in his California lab. After watching his stroke through Cameron's lenses and computers, Faxon made the adjustment that gave him the slight arc. The difference between the new stroke and the old one is not something the naked eye would see. But it has coincided with the years in which Faxon has compiled the Tour's best putting stats.

Faxon, though, says he doesn't pay that much attention to his stroke when he practices, let alone when he plays. He doesn't think there is a perfect stroke, certainly not one for every golfer. He's seen too many great putters whose strokes were different from his. Nor, for all the attention he gives to it, does he think the equipment is vital to his putting success. Which brings him to the third and, to Faxon, the most important component of putting.

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