Short game guru Dave Pelz believes Irish and European golfers have all the advantages at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham this week.
Pelz, who has an extensive network of teaching facilities in the US and runs the Pelz School at Killeen Castle, is familiar with Irish golf at both the elite and the amateur level.
Like many observers from the far side of the Atlantic, he can barely believe that four Major winners come from a population the size of an average US city.
But as individual events, the Irish wins were no surprises.
"The elite Irish golfer is alarmingly good. I know Pádraig Harrington very well and have talked to him many times. He is not a student of mine but he is a good friend and a great player. I also know Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. They are incredibly good players. I said for years that they would win or were about to win when their short games got to where they should be."
Speaking at Killeen, Pelz also reveals that McDowell took a house there for a week the before Europe’s comprehensive win in the last Ryder Cup. "He played here and practiced here and...killed us!"
Pelz has been directly involved in 19 Major wins with 10 separate students. Who does he see doing well this week? "The last time I was at Lytham, it was so hard and fast. Tom Lehman won hitting that big hook he hits and it was going forever. He could land it way in front of the green and run it on.
"This time, if it is windy and hard, I think the European contingent have the advantage. But if it is really soft, with long rough and soft greens, it gives the Americans a better chance."
While Pelz has made a name as a strategy and short game expert, his work with normal golfers is the bread and butter. Many Irish golfers are familiar with Pelz’s books – the ‘Putting Bible’ and ‘Short Game Bible’, which remain staples on the shelves.
Would he change anything in them books now? No.
"If you watch Phil Mickelson on TV and his caddy Bones, they talk about ‘Pelz shots’. That’s the three-quarter swing – the nine o’clock swing – and he has essentially perfected that shot.
"He also plays every round with four wedges, which gives him 12 shots inside 100 yards. It is a great, effective system and if amateurs learn to hit the 40-yard shot, 60-yard shot and 90-yard shot they lower their handicaps."
Pelz advocacy of a straight back and through putting stroke is another distinctive aspect of his thinking. What about Tiger Woods – the world’s best putter on his day – and his stroke?
According to Pelz, "Tiger talks about releasing the putter and people think that means he opens it on the backswing. Tiger’s bad putting stroke is a block. When he releases it, he gets it back square. He doesn’t miss left very often, he misses right and that is because he doesn’t get back to square. I think Tiger in his best putting rotates very little."
In general, Pelz is still firmly in the camp of those who believe in letting the big muscles do the work.
"I think rotation is an undesirable thing in a putting stroke although some people because of their height have to rotate a little bit. I teach it to some golfers. My theory is you don’t intentionally rotate your forearms, or undercut them or anything. You just let them swing. No manipulation is what you can do well under pressure.”"
Ultimately, the Pelz philosophy is all about applying a system based on improving shots within 100 yards of the hole to drop handicaps quickly.
At Killeen, where he reaffirms strongly intention to continue running the school despite the economic downturn, instruction at all levels up to the full three-day school is all based on the same idea.
"For the golfers at our schools, the average handicap is about 20. When you are a 20 handicap, you are a pretty good golfer. You par some and you double (bogey) some.
"If you can hit the ball long and make pars, you can be a scratch player if you want to be if you have the lifestyle and time, and the right lessons. That’s what makes golf easier."