Roger Maltbie

Meet the pro tour's first switch- putter, Roger Maltbie.

Switch-putter?

That's right. It works like this: When Maltbie has a putt that breaks to his left, he putts right-handed. When he has a putt that breaks to his right, he turns around and putts left- handed.

"This is the second tournament I've used it in," Maltbie said after a round at Cypress Point during the AT&T National Pro-Am. "I've used it 'in the Spalding and the mixed team some. I've been with it four or five months.

"It's a great theory. I'm still not totally convinced of my abilities to do it, but the theory is absolutely right. Actually, my stroke is better from the left side, but I'm just not used to it. It takes awhile, certainly at this level. One thing you want to be when you're playing tournament golf is comfortable."

Comfort is the whole idea behind the theory. Most golfers usually feel comfortable standing over a putt that breaks right-to-left, but awkward over one putt that moves left-to- right.

Switch putting, as it is called by inventors Tim Holman and Brian Stack, solves that problem. Of course, it takes practice, and you need a blade putter. Holman, a teaching pro at Lake Tahoe CC, and Stack are marketing their own model of switch-putting putter.

"It's not that complicated a motion," Maltbie said. "You have to get used to seeing things from the other side. That's the biggest thing.

"I still choose to putt right-handed even if it breaks to the right if the putt is up over a hill or longer than 25 feet. I'm still afraid I might kind of half-top it or something left-handed.

It's gonna take time."

Blaine McCallister, Mac O'Grady and Jim Nelford are right-handed players who had success putting left- handed. Maltbie may be the first to switch back and forth during a round. Several other tour players have experimented with it, Holman said, but they aren't ready to come out of the closet.

Maltbie sometimes even switches on the same green, which confuses spectators.

"I was playing with Roger recently," said AT&T champion Mark O'Meara, "and he hit his first putt left-handed past the hole a few feet. He turns around to putt the next one right-handed, and some guy in the crowd yells, 'Hey, Maltbie, make up your mind.'

"I was upset, and I told the guy, 'Real nice comment.' Then Roger says, 'Do you mind if I putt?' He was great about it. I don't think I'd have been that nice."

Said Maltbie, "I'm going to get some of that. Some of that's going to happen."

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