Golfmagic debate: Gimme or no Gimme?

Alex Perry and Andy Roberts
Fri, 26 Oct 2012
Golfmagic debate: Gimme or no Gimme?

GIMME – (n) a putt so close to the hole that it’s conceded, also known as cheating, writes Andy Roberts.

While I’ve never had a problem with this golfing term before - mainly because putting from ‘inside the leather’ gives me the jeepers – it has suddenly dawned on me that this unofficial, time-consuming convention should be abolished.

And no, I’m not just talking about practice rounds with Grandad Roberts (no one likes seeing him three-jab from inside three-feet, holding up the group behind), I’m talking about everything from professionals to club matchplay games.

I recently represented my club and found myself with two putts from 30-feet to go 2-up through 14. I rolled my ball up to the cup, leaving a simple uphill tap-in. It wasn’t just ‘inside the leather’, it was close to being inside the length of my FootJoy StaSof.

As I approached my ball, fully expecting to hear ‘that's good Andy, pick it up’, I glanced up to see my opponent standing there, arms folded, staring forcefully at what was left of my putt.

I considered nonchalantly rolling it home one-handed and returning his stare. Instead I went through my normal routine of marking the ball followed by two practice strokes before sllotting the ball into the cup. I maybe should have left it at that but plucking the ball out the cup, I unleashed an Ian Poulter double fist pump toward the stables. 

I apportion no blame to my opponent, however. We always like to see them in if we’re behind because a hole is never over until the ball drops to the bottom of the cup. 

Rarely do we see this kind of act in other sports. It’s like a goalkeeper picking up the ball and hoofing it back to the centre circle with an opponent about to take a penalty, or a snooker player walking off when a long straight black is required by his oppoent to win the match. Anything can happen in sport, particularly when under pressure and we should always ‘play to the whistle’, so to speak.

While I fully respect these guys are good on the PGA Tour and there is a known statistic that players hole out 99% of the time from inside three-feet, I could not believe some of the putts that were being given at the WGC-Matchplay last week.

When the pros were interviewed by Sky Sports’ Tim Barter about how far is a correct gimme length at Dove Mountain at the weekend, they were pretty much agreed on three-feet, although Justin Rose explained he would probably give a five-footer if it was straight and uphill.

Casting my mind back to Medinah, I remember Poulter being disgracefully booed by American fans when forcing Webb Simpson to hole out from three-feet in their Sunday singles match. The Englishman slipped on his shades and shrugged his shoulders. Simpson duly holed the putt but Poulter had every right to see it in.

When you are down in a match, particularly on the back nine, you need to fight for every possible scenario. 

Equally the incident in the match between Francesco Molinari and Tiger Woods. The Ryder Cup was over but Europe was playing for the win and not just to retain the trophy.

Critics across the pond hinted at poor sportsmanship from European captain Jose Maria Olazabal and suggested Molinari should have conceded Woods’ four-footer at the 18th to ensure a halved hole, 1-up win for Woods and 14-14 draw in the overall context of play. Even American captain Davis Love III said the incident was ‘awkward’ in the aftermath of Woods’ missed putt and Europe’s overall triumph.

Another gimme incident that lingers in the memory was at the 2009 Presidents Cup when Retief Goosen appeared to give Justin Leonard the nod that his 14-inch putt ‘was good’ but the American misinterpreted the concession and ended up missing the putt – a stroke that would ultimately cost the US half a point.

And we’ve seen plenty of shorties missed in strokeplay events on the PGA Tour of late, most notably, Charl Schwartzel’s agonising four putt from three-feet at the 18th hole during the 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship.

Rory McIlroy is also not averse to aberrations on the PGA Tour as he missed eight of 80 putts inside of four-feet in 2012 - and judging from his early form on the greens this year, that statistic will probably rise. Even Woods, one of the greatest holer-outers, missed eight out of 84 attempts -  a 90% strike rate. Surely it’s worth taking that 10% chance of a miss?

While I accept golf is a gentleman’s game and sportsmanship is of paramount importance, if that’s how the best two players in the world perform from close range, just think what the percentage would be of your club opponent this weekend?

At the risk of causing too much footfall damage around the hole, I say put an end to the gimme and let’s see 'em all in please.

After all it’s what late golfing great and record 82-time PGA Tour champion Sam Snead would have wanted... keep close count of your nickels and dimes, stay away from whiskey, and never concede a putt.

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