2004: O’Meara tinkers, then triumphs

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Funny old game, golf. Strange how one seemingly simple, small change can mean the difference between victory and defeat, and how it can revitalize a career.

Just ask Mark O’Meara.

For the last few years O’Meara has been going through the motions, keeping his game ticking until he moves on to the Champions Tour. Yet one simple, albeit strange, change has the two-time major winner looking forward to the rest of a new golf season for the first time in many years.

A new putting grip propeled the 47-year-old to his first victory in almost six years. O’Meara shot 17-under-par 217 to win the $2 million Dubai Desert Classic.

O’Meara has struggled with his putting the last few years, but was given fresh hope late last year when longtime coach Hank Haney suggested a new putting grip.

Haney has O’Meara putting with three fingers of his right hand resting against the putter. The two-time major winner calls it “the saw” because he pushes the putter through to the hole as if he was sawing wood. He says the grip takes the yip out of his stroke.

“I said, ‘Well it looks pretty bizarre,’ ” O’Meara said. “I know (Mark) Calcavecchia and Chris DiMarco have got ‘the claw.’ Stadler and Tim Herron kind of have the paintbrush and I’m thinking I don’t know if I can go with it.

“All of a sudden I had no yip in my stroke at all.”

The grip worked well in Dubai.

“I hit some wonderful putts this week,” O’Meara said. “I had great speed on my putts, and if you can do that you have a better chance of winning.

O’Meara defeated Ireland’s Paul McGinley by a shot to earn 267,929 euros (approximately $331,000).

McGinley was looking for his first victory since the 2001 Celtic Manor Resort Open on the PGA European Tour. He started the final round tied for the lead with O’Meara, but made bogey at Nos. 9 and 16 to finish second.

“I’m obviously disappointed,” he said. “We’re in this game to win, and the difference between winning and second is huge. Having said that, I didn’t lose the tournament. Mark won it.

“He was tough. I felt like I was in a boxing match out there.”

Tiger Woods, who was paid a reported $3 million appearance fee, was waiting for O’Meara after the final hole to congratulate him.

“To have Tiger Woods stand on the 18th green and give me a big bear hug meant a lot to me,” O’Meara said.

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