Greatness comes in many forms. On the putting green, it's the ability to make putts in clutch situations, and do it on a regular basis. It's about owning a stroke that works, not necessarily one that looks pretty or is fundamentally perfect (although many great putters are both smooth and sound). It's about wielding that blunt instrument as a weapon, not as something you use to mop up any mess you've made with your woods and irons.
Greatness can be found in many, but only a select few can claim to be one of the Greatest Putters of all Time. We asked the experts who know best GOLF Magazine's Top 100 Teachers to help us with ranking the top 10, and to provide insight to help you make some history of your own.
So tend the pin and... "Quiet Please!" The 10 Greatest Putters are here at work.
Stroke analyses by Top 100 Teacher Bill Moretti10. GEORGE LOW JR.
Playing career: 1930-1945
Born just outside Baltusrol G.C. in New Jersey ("I was born on the 19th hole the only one I ever parred"), George Low didn't win a lot of PGA Tour events, but was so good with the flatstick that he a) helped end Byron Nelson's 11-event win streak in 1945, b) gave Arnold Palmer the putting advice he needed to win the 1960 Masters, c) designed one of the most victorious putters of all time (the George Low Sportsman Wizard 600, used most famously by Jack Nicklaus in his prime) and d) won so much money on the practice putting green that he didn't have to worry about his place on the official earnings list.
Stroke analysis: Low felt that the best way to get a true roll was to swing the putter from inside-out. To do this, he set the ball on the heel of his putter at address and placed his weight on his left heel, forcing his stroke to pivot around his left leg, thumb and shoulder.
9. LOREN ROBERTS
Playing career: 1981-
Not many putting nicknames come cooler than "The Boss of the Moss" (bestowed upon Roberts by PGA Tour player David Ogrin in 1985), and Roberts certainly earned it with a putting game that was, without a doubt, the envy of the Tour in the 1980s and 1990s. The eight-time winner (Roberts has also bagged 11 victories on the Champions Tour) set the standard with gaudy putting stats that, at times, defied belief. During his 14 full seasons on Tour, Roberts needed 56,457 putts to complete 1,996 rounds. Do the math: That's a career Putts Per Round average of 28.3, which would have placed him in the top 10 on the 2009 PGA Tour season list.
Stroke analysis: If you catch a Champions Tour event where Roberts is playing with Dave Stockton, you'll be struck by the similarities in their strokes, and how they move with the same slow tempo on the greens. Roberts has a great visual if you're struggling with your putting: Your puttershaft is a pencil, and all you're trying to do is draw a line on the green to your target.
8. DAVE STOCKTON SR.
Playing career: 1964-
Even his sons, Ronnie and Dave Jr. will admit: "Dad got more out of his game than anyone." His secret: a strong mental attitude and a superlative knack for judging green slope and green speed that made putting almost too simple for the two-time PGA Championship winner. His current popularity as a top-level putting coach is nothing new to Stockton. "People liked my stroke, and were always asking for advice, even way back in the 1970s. I never talked about my teaching publicly because, in my eyes, I was a player, not a instructor." Stockton's style boils down to keeping things simple. "He did a clinic for us here at the Pebble Beach Golf Academy a few years back," recalls Top 100 Teacher Dan Pasquariello. "I brought over some training aids, and Stockton barked, 'Get those things out of here before you screw up these peoples' strokes!"
Stroke analysis: Stockton brought the club back close to his body on his backstroke, then lead with the handle through the ball and kept his left elbow close to his side so he wouldn't miss right.
7. BOBBY JONES
Playing career: 1919-1930
From the desk of Top 100 Teacher Dr. Gary Wiren: "Nobody nobody! bags 13 majors in 20 attempts, wins 9 out of 10 matches in Walker Cup play, and does it all before retiring at the ripe old age of 28 without owning an all-time great putting game." The good doctor is right, despite how little is written about Jones' stroke compared to his full swing. In fact, Jones' putter, "Calamity Jane" has gained more notoriety, but, as Top 100 Teacher Jim Murphy points out, "Augusta's greens weren't built by someone who feared putting. They were designed to separate great putters from merely good ones."
Stroke analysis: The interesting thing is that Jones didn't follow a strict routine or style ever time. Since every putt offered a different challenge, Jones did what felt good for each particular situation. He putted very similarly to the way Ben Crenshaw putts. They both make the same miniature full-swing stroke open the door, close the door.
6. BILLY CASPER
Playing career: 1954-1989
"Casper was born among greats," notes Top 100 Teacher Eddie Merrins. "He was a product of San Diego's proving ground of champions in the 1950s and 60s that included Mickey Wright, Gene Littler and Phil Rodgers. It's no surprise he won 51 Tour events, especially when you look at his stroke." Casper never deviated from his carefully plotted pre-shot routine, and like Dave Stockton who followed, spent little time fretting over his read and his mechanics. His 1959 U.S. Open victory at Winged Foot over Ben Hogan was a contrast in styles. Recalls Merrins, "It was Hogan hitting nearly every green, and Casper chipping and one-putting at every opportunity." Famously, Casper played short of the green on the 200-yard-plus par-3 third hole every round, and carded par all four times.
Stroke analysis: Casper used his left wrist as a hinge. He swung his putter straight back and then just rapped the ball. He pinned his upper arms to his body to eliminate any extra movement.