The man whose putting lessons will help many pros at The Open

From ESPN - July 17, 2017

FORMBY, England -- As the ball closed in on its target, caddie Gareth Lord knew exactly where it was heading. He pulled the flag and squeezed it joyfully as the 51-foot birdie attempt dropped deadweight into the cup.

In the center of the green, Henrik Stenson, playing the greatest round of his life, had walked the putt toward the hole and then delivered an impassioned fist pump in the direction of the putting surface as it gobbled up his ball.

Around Royal Troon's 15th green at the 2016 Open Championship, the packed galleries released an explosion of noise. On television the commentators gasped. Across the world viewers laughed at the absurdity of the sustained mastery of the greens they were watching. To one side, Phil Mickelson strived to maintain focus under the weight of so many golfing punches to the head.

It was not quite the end of the 2016 Open Championship, but it was a defining moment. Sheer brilliance on a day when Stenson's putting was epic in scale, a day when runner-up Mickelson completed the seventh-lowest Open total in history and bettered the field by 11 strokes yet was left trailing 3 shots in the wake of the victorious Swede.

A day when the nine years of endeavor Stenson had shared with his English putting coach, Phil Kenyon, peaked in a blizzard of lengthy birdie conversions. Surely, Stenson's performance has to rank as one of the greatest putting displays ever, right?

"Well, yeah, it was pretty good," Kenyon responded to with a sheepish chuckle ahead of Stenson's defense of the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale this week. "Under the circumstances, it was not bad at all really."

What Kenyon can be drawn on is his flexible approach. He's not interested in creating a series of replica golfers, stroking the ball with an identikit style. His roster of clients includes not only Stenson, but other major winners such as Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett along with European Tour champions Chris Wood, Alex Noren and Tommy Fleetwood.

All have enjoyed high-profile success in the past 18 months, and each putts in his own manner.

"There's no prescriptive model," said Kenyon. "It's more about improving the individual. No dogmatic approach."

His base utilizes a SAM Putting Lab, Quintic Ball Rolling Software, GASP video technology and a Zen Green Stage, the latter a hydraulic putting green that can create any type of putt in seconds.

If understated praise and deflection of attention are very quirky British traits, then it is only right that Kenyon should employ them. The 43-year-old -- whose base is the Harold Swash Putting School of Excellence at Formby Hall Golf Club, less than 5 miles from Birkdale -- is a man whose backstory has been shaped by British quirkiness.

To properly understand Kenyon, you must first appreciate the story of Harold Swash, a fellow of idiosyncratic yet brilliant nature, whose engineering rather than golfing background informed his early fascination with the sport.

Not satisfied with what was on the market in the 1960s, Swash designed and produced a putter in his garage that outperformed the established golf industry. He did not do it once, but repeatedly. Enthralled by the game within a game, obsessed with the dynamics of putting, Swash moved beyond manufacture into coaching, driven by his belief that the roll of the ball held the key.

Fundamental to Swash's work was the creation and development of the C-Groove Putter which improves grip on the ball at impact, reducing the sliding and skidding common with conventional putters, instead promoting a swifter transition into forward roll which makes the ball more stable, less vulnerable to deflections and holds a truer line.

His approach was revolutionary and ahead of the curve, encompassing all manner of scientific and engineering principles. Yet when it came to teaching, he sought uncomplicated methods to relate his advice.

He became a familiar face on the European Tour, aiding the likes of Nick Faldo and Padraig Harrington. He was also, crucially, a Kenyon family friend.

"I'd been around him from an early age," said Kenyon. "I was intrigued and interested from the start, but I set out with aspirations to play myself, and after university, I turned pro."

Kenyon was briefly on the treadmill of minor tour golf, even making a few appearances on the European Tour's feeder circuit, the Challenge Tour.


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