John Smoltz contending with help of putter, attitude at Tournament of Champions

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John Smoltz contending with help of putter, attitude at Tournament of Champions

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John Smoltz contending with help of putter, attitude at Tournament of Champions

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John Smoltz, using an eye-catching stand-up putter, posted a 6-under 65 Friday in the celebrity division of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. The Hall of Fame pitcher trails tennis pro Mardy Fish by a single point in the stableford format. Fish has twice topped the celebrity field in previous years.

Smoltz decided to bring the hands-free Bloodline putter into competition this week after mostly using it only to practice it home. He brought a handful of backup putters to Florida just in case, but has no plans on leaving the Bloodline back at the hotel.

Smoltz, 51, takes his golf seriously, qualifying for last year’s U.S. Senior Open. So far his game plan for the week is working out nicely.

“The biggest thing I found that I fall into is to protect,” he said. “There’s no reason to protect. Just let it go. Hit it and let it go. That’s what I’m trying to work on, and it’s actually working now.”

For the second day in a row, Smoltz played alongside top American Lexi Thompson, who trails Brooke Henderson by four shots in the professional division. Thompson said she had to Google Smoltz’s name before Thursday’s opening round. Guessing the golf-crazed Smoltz didn’t have to do the same.

“It’s hard to describe how powerful her shot is through the ball, like the divot pattern…” said Smoltz. “I haven’t played with a lot of female pros that go after it the way she does. It’s pretty impressive. The thing is because she’s been playing now – gosh, nine years on the LPGA and she’s 23? Going to be 24.

“Really – it came down to today she just didn’t make some putts. This round for most people could have turned into an over-par round, and she still managed to get 3 under or something like that. So it’s fun to watch.”

Smoltz also noted that Thompson hit 5-iron when he hit 4-iron.

“Yeah, because she knows where that ball’s going,” he said, “and she knows she can attack at the zone, and it’s going to go right to left about five yards.”

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