I've got a really tough call to make - do I play it safe, or do I pull out the 5 wood and try to carve one into a green surrounded on three sides by water? If I pull it off, I'll have the equivalent of an eagle putt. If I don't, I'm not just digging for another ball… I'm sleeping on the couch.
Golf's a game of calculations. It's all about risk and reward, about weighing the likely benefits and the potential costs. Do you pull driver on that short par four or do you lay back safely? That tucked pin looks tempting, but the fat of the green should ensure a two-putt par. Do you lay open that wedge and flop it a mile high, or opt for the reliable bump and run?
The choice in front of me mirrors so many of those we face over the course of 18 holes. But this one happens in my recliner. I've got the chance to buy a limited edition, specially designed left-handed putter, modeled after the one Phil Mickelson used to win the Masters. I learned the game putting with a blade putter - my Arnold Palmer Original was the first new club I ever owned and was in the bag until a year ago - and Odyssey's never bothered with the 8802 style all these years. Called the Protype 82, it's the classic 8802 shape with a sight line like Phil's, and even the built-up grip he prefers.
They made 82 right-handed and 82 left-handed models, and held a first come, first served online sign up, with "winners" to be announced a week later. As much as I'd love the idea of owning a putter just like Phil's, the price tag stopped me in my tracks - $500.
I figured at the very worst I'd sign up and get on some Callaway (the parent company of Odyssey) mailing lists. Maybe I'd hit the lottery before it was time to ante up. But on first glance, there was no way I could cough up five bills on a putter. I'm a newspaper man, not an investment banker. My wallet creaks when it's pried open. I've played the same irons for a decade because they were doing the trick. I've upgraded my bag over the past two years buying used stuff on eBay. I brag about the $35 Vokey wedges, the $49 906f2 5 wood, and $105 905R driver I've got in the bag. I felt like I really splurged when I finally broke down and spent $250 on a set of used $900 irons after a successful trip to the casino.
But here I am, asking how I can shell out $500 on a putter, one I've never held in my hands, that I've never stroked a putt with. Hell, the reason I had to replace my Original was that over the 16 years I've had it, my gut's grown to the point the end of the putter shaft was jabbing into my stomach. That's right, my eating habits have turned a 36-inch putter into a belly putter. So what's to say this 35-inch PT82 will hole a single putt for me?
Add the fact my wife and I are on the verge of buying a house, and it's a no-brainer, it's not even worth considering pulling out the credit card.
A no-brainer… until the email arrived saying I'd made the list, and had a week to decide if I want one.
Suddenly, the reality is I can own my very own Phil Mickelson model putter. And let the rationalization begin. It's the 8802 style I grew up on! It's got a sight line! The head cover is really cool! It's a limited edition! It's just like Phil's!!!
Since I'm down to crunch time, I need to make a decision. First, add up the risks: I lose all ability to ask, "you paid how much for those shows?" My equipment buying is done for at least this year, and likely 2011, too. I might not even be able to swing it without my gut getting in the way. For that money, I could go out and have a putter designed to Ron Varrial specs, not to those of a guy who stands 10 inches taller.
Then take a look at the rewards. Golf's about feeling good, and how cool will it be to know Phil and I are gaming the same short stick? As a limited edition, these puppies are already selling on eBay for $1,000, so in theory I could sell it off if I have buyer's remorse, and might even turn a profit. It's a putter, which takes the least abuse in the bag, and technology won't make it obsolete, so it's got a virtually infinite shelf life. Divide the $500 over the next 20 years and suddenly it's not bad at all. If I'm happy in golf, I'm a much more pleasant person to be around, according to my wife, so it's a benefit for her, too. To top it off, since she's the greatest, sweetest, most wonderful wife on earth (yes, I'm hoping she's reading this), I've get her blessing if it's something I really, really want.
I place the pros and the cons on a scale and it teeters. For one minute it sways to the "Grab the credit card!" side. Then it swings back to the "Are You Crazy?" side. The settles right back into the middle.
I've still got a bit of time, but not much.
I'm 230 from the green, and eagle is dangling in front of me. But that pond is waiting to gobble up anything off line. What to do … what to do? Luckily I'm on the clock, but don't need to decide before this column publishes. Anyone out there want to be my caddie? I can use the advice. And make sure to check back in a couple days to see if I pulled out the fairway wood, or decided to lay up. I'll post an update below - unless I'm grounded and banned from all golf-related activities.