PORT ARTHUR —
Chris Stroud likes to call D.A. Points his “red-wine mentor.” After the intervention Stroud performed for Points last week, paving the way for the former University of Illinois star to win the Shell Houston Open, collect a check for $1,116,000, earn a spot in the Masters and salvage a 2013 season that was in the dumpster, Points ought to buy Chris some stock in a winery.
He should probably also make a nice donation to the Lamar University golf program.
The latter, of course, would be to acknowledge a putting lesson from LU golf coach Brian White last Wednesday that seemingly did for Points’ stroke and confidence what Steve Stricker did for Tiger Woods a few weeks ago. Virtually overnight, he went from tentative to terrific, needing only 23 strokes of an old Ping Anser to roll in 155 feet worth of putts enroute to an opening-round 66.
Though the putter cooled a bit over the next three days, Points’ confidence didn’t wane. He finished 7th in strokes gained putting in the SHO and had the moxie to drain a 13-footer on the 72nd hole that capped a closing 66 and secured his second PGA Tour victory.
Nobody can positively say Points might not have won in Houston without assists from Stroud and White, but the evidence is overwhelming that he wouldn’t have come close. Prior to the SHO, he’d missed three straight cuts and had gone home early seven of nine times in 2013. His stroke average for the eight previous rounds was 74.1. At Bay Hill the previous week, he’d missed the cut with 73-75.
Stroud, who did make the cut at Bay Hill, stopped by Points’ home in the upscale community of Isleworth on a Friday evening to chat with his good buddy, and sip a little red wine from his 1,200 bottle cellar. Points, understandably, was out of sorts about his game in general, and his putting in particular, and suggested to Chris that he was thinking about taking a few weeks off to regroup.
“No, don’t do that,” Stroud said. “Come to Houston and let my golf coach at Lamar, Brian White, work with you on your putting. He’s an excellent swing coach, but he’s even better with putting. He putts as good as a tour pro and I’m convinced he can help you. He keeps it simple, he doesn’t get all mechanical.”
Points bought in, but the lesson almost didn’t happen. Because he played in the Tavistock Cup on Tuesday in Orlando, he wasn’t able to get into Houston until Wednesday morning. White, however, was scheduled for a 9:30 a.m. flight out of Houston on Wednesday to accompany the Lamar golf team to Stanford’s tournament.
“Whitey and I were at a party in downtown Houston on Tuesday night,” Stroud said. “I asked him if he could get with D.A. on Wednesday morning for a putting lesson. He said he’d have to do it another time because he had an early flight Wednesday with the golf team. A little while later he came back and said he’d checked and could get on an afternoon flight.”
So that’s how Points and White happened to be on the Redstone putting green following a frost delay that pushed the pro-am back over two hours. Points showed up armed with six putters. White liked the two that were offset — the Ping Anser he’d taken from his mother’s golf bag many years ago — and a Scotty Cameron.
A professional since 1999, Darren Andrew Points’ only PGA Tour victory up to that point had come using the Anser in the 2011 AT&T at Pebble Beach. He mentioned that to White and the LU coach thought it was a good choice because of the positive memories.
“What I did with him was pretty simple,” White said. “He had to get his hands more forward to keep them in front of the club face. He’d been putting with a SeeMore and it sets your hands behind the putter. It was causing him to release the putter too much. Once we made the adjustment, things fell into place real quick. I thought he had a fantastic session.”
A little more than 24 hours later White was standing on, of all places, the putting green at Stanford when one of his players came over and told him Points had birdied the first five holes at Redstone. White began to follow him on the PGA Tour app on his phone.
“I was really happy for him,” said White, “It was a good feeling to see what we’d worked on paying off. He not only was putting well, he was hitting great shots. I sent him a text after the round congratulating him. I wasn’t thinking at the time that he was going to go on and win, but I was confident he was going to have the kind of tournament that would get him back on track.”
Points hovered near the lead Friday and Saturday, shooting 71, 71, then came charging home on Sunday with a 66. The punctuation mark was a pressure-packed 13 footer on the final hole that both Stroud and White were sweating out.
“I am so happy for him,” Stroud said. “He’d texted me after the 64 and said, ‘I owe you big time.’ To see him win that tournament, and to know Whitey had been a part of it, was something really special. Whitey knows his stuff. I understand he’s been getting acknowledged on the Golf Channel and in stories about D.A. winning. That’s good for him and the publicity is great for Lamar. The school is so fortunate to have him for its golf coach.”
“Looks like I helped that dude out a little,” White said with a chuckle on Monday. “But you have to give him a lot of credit. My putting lesson helped him, but he’s the one who hit all those shots and who handled the pressure. It certainly wasn’t all putting. He’s a terrific player and he wasn’t all that far off. You can be missing cuts and things can change in a hurry.”
Points, in his post-victory press conference, was asked what made him think a guy he didn’t even know might be able to help him.
“I was struggling. I mean, when you’re not putting good and you’re not hitting hit it good, when you’re not playing well, you know — and the things he was saying at first I wasn’t in love with. But then I knew that what he was saying wasn’t wrong, and I decided, well, what I’ve been doing right now isn’t getting it done. It’s certainly not going to hurt me to try something different.
“He was kind of getting me to put a little bit different energy into the ball. I feel like I’m almost hitting down on it, and with that, the ball started rolling real tight. My hit got a little more consistent. I stopped missing putts to the left, and, I mean, I hit good putts this week. The line on my ball rolled so tight, it just looked like it was going to dive in the hole.”
For those, then, who believe in fate and destiny, D.A Points is a classic tale. What if Points hadn’t brought the Ping Anser in his arsenal of putters last Wednesday? What if Chris Stroud hadn’t stopped by to visit that Friday night in Orlando? What if Brian White hadn’t been willing to change his flight to California?
So let’s join Points in a toast to all things Lamar University golf. With, of course, a glass of red wine.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at email@example.com
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