The PGA Tour players do like all of us amateurs, they really do. They appreciate the way we love the game and support their livelihood. It's just that, in their view of us as golfers, they say we come up short.
That isn't a value judgment. They mean that literally. When we aim for the green, we usually don't get it there. That is the first thing that came to mind for a number of pros playing this weekend at The Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club when they were presented with the question, "Which fault do you see most often in amateurs' games?"
Adam Scott, for instance, didn't hesitate for a second before he replied, "Not taking enough club. The shot is always short."
So, when we think we need a 7-iron, we probably should use a 5 or a 6. "You'd be better off taking a couple more and swinging easy and giving yourself a chance to get to the hole. I think that would be more fun for the amateurs," said Scott.
Does Scott offer that advice to his partners in pro-ams every week? "I would," he said, "but it's a bit of a blow to the old ego when I tell them they can't hit an 8-iron here when they think they can. I try to keep people happy so they keep sponsoring our tournaments."
The value of pro-ams to the tour was underscored this week when Jim Furyk missed his tee time Wednesday and was ruled ineligible for the start of tournament play Thursday. Amateurs pay big money every week to play with big-time golfers, and it is hard not to notice the differences.
"I'd say underclubbing," Zach Johnson said. "It seems to me that because an amateur feels he can hit an 8-iron 150 yards, he feels he hits it 150 yards every time, and that's not the case. And I would say under-reading putts. An amateur will say, 'Oh it's right edge.' No, it's a foot out."
Paul Casey said, "The biggest thing is just not knowing the yardages of your clubs, simple as that. You know, we play by numbers, it's a numbers game. Our misses are normally left or right, rarely long or short, especially with a 7-iron."
Not so for the average golfer. He said the distance problem can be rectified: "It means, if you can, hitting 10 balls on the range and getting out and seeing where the average one is. Not seeing where the best one is, seeing where the average number is. Maybe you can get a range finder or a yardage book or even pace it. When you play the round, write down, 'the last 7-iron went 160 and this one went 155.' After a while you get used to it."
To be sure, pros notice other areas where we need work, too. "Probably your chipping and putting," Bill Haas said. "We do it every day, so we practice that more. That's just something that the average guy never practices because they either go to the driving range or they go play. In general, we're hitting 12 or 13 greens a round [in regulation], so we're missing five or six. But we get up and down, so instead of shooting 80, we shoot 69."
Rickie Fowler, the power-hitting 21-year-old phenom, said, "Usually, when people ask me - whether it's kids or grownups - what they can work on, I always tell them 'short game.' Poke it out there and hit it up by the green and a chip and a putt, you've got a par. But if you don't feel comfortable around the greens, then it's tough. I don't think you can ever be too good at short game."
Haas' advice is this: "Work on your chipping and get a lesson on chipping, too, because it's not just something you can figure out. You need some help with it."
But mostly, we need to realize we're not as strong as we think we are. Face it, how often do we hit a ball over the green? "Never," said veteran tour caddie Joe Damiano, who now works for Robert Allenby. "Absolutely never. I used to be the same way until I realized I'm an old fat guy and I need to take more club."