16 02 2010

After a difficult 2009 season, former John Deere Classic champion J.P. Hayes is off to a good start in 2010, one that he attributes to the use of a long putter.

The 44-year-old native of Appleton, Wisconsin and longtime resident of El Paso finished in a tie for fifth last week at Pebble Beach. Hayes shot rounds of 68-71-63-72 for a 12-under par total of 274.

After playing in only three events so far this year, Hayes already has accumulated almost as much in official earnings ($252,717) and FedEx Cup points (136) as he did in all of 2009 ($300,102 and 168, respectively).

Asked after his final round about his commitment to the long putter, Hayes said, “That’s the big distinction: I’ve committed to it. I haven’t given myself the opportunity to switch by traveling with six other putters in my bag. It’s kind of nice to show up at a tournament with one putter and you know that’s what you’re gonna use.”

In Hayes’ case, the statistics tell the story: he ranks No. 4 on Tour in putting, taking only 1.676 putts per green in regulation. He has piled up 50 birdies in 11 rounds (18th on Tour) and is averaging 28.18 putts per round, 16th on Tour.

Another key is that Hayes is hitting 71.72 percent of his greens in regulation (45th on Tour) despite ranking 171st in driving distance at 265 yards per measured drive.

The accumulation of good news is giving confidence to Hayes, whose last victory came at the 2002 John Deere Classic.

“I’m looking forward to every week this year,” Hayes said. “I’m really enjoying myself, and got a fresh perspective after a couple lean years. Gonna be fun.”




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