As Scottish legend Sam Torrance decides to end his competitive career we recall a fascinating sit-down where he breaks down his putting yips
Sam Torrance will always be best remembered for his Ryder Cup exploits, be it arms hoisted as he rolled in a birdie putt at the Belfry’s 18th to secure Europe’s first win in 28 years or overseeing the team as captain 17 years later in 2002.
Now, according to a report in The Scotsman, the 66-year-old has decided to call time on his playing career after nearly 50 years as a pro. At the end of it all there were 706 European Tour appearances, more than anyone, and then nearly 150 on the Senior/Staysure Tour, the last of which came two years ago.
Six years ago I sat down with Torrance. He had just finished a practice round, it was unusually hot and he was plonked in front of me without any warning by a well-meaning but pushy PR character.
The chat began, to put it mildly, slowly as we bounced from increasingly abbreviated questions to even more abrupt answers. Then, bizarrely, it was the recollection of his final round at Wentworth in the mid ’80s that turned the interview into one of the most fascinating and enjoyable I’ve ever had.
The round was comfortably the most impressive I’ve ever been lucky to witness; he holed his approach for an eagle at the 7th, had two eagle putts inside five feet and maybe 10 birdie putts of a similar distance. He didn’t break 70.
“It was maybe in 1986 when my putting went; I had the twitches, I couldn’t get it in from a foot. Simple as that,” Torrance recalled. “In 1972 I was going from the 9th green to the 10th tee at the Open Championship and there was a guy putting called Mr Lu and he had finished second the year before. He hit this putt from about six feet and, honestly, I thought he had this live snake in his hands. It was the worst looking thing I had ever seen.
“I don’t know if that was when the seed was planted and it took 15 years to realise itself. I’m a very positive person, it’s nothing to do with that. I can’t explain it. I tried everything before building my own long putter.”
In his first tournament with the long putter he birdied the last five holes and, despite a few flurries with his ‘normal’ one, it then transformed his efforts on the greens.
“I tried my old putter in the Lancome, I holed a 15-footer at the 1st, a 10-footer at the next, 12-footer at the 3rd and then a 20-footer. And I thought ‘what have I been doing with this bloody long thing?’
“Then I got round to 15 and I had a two-footer. It was a horrible twitch and didn’t even get close to the hole, I just thought I can’t contend with a normal putter, it could come at any point and you just build it up in your mind to do it.”
At which point he got up to demonstrate what should and shouldn’t be allowed in terms of anchoring, something which came to pass years later in 2016, before opening up on what might have been different. He only played in a total of 13 US majors, as opposed to 28 Opens, and he missed out on a three-year exemption to the PGA Tour when he lost a play-off in the Southern Open.
But they were few and Torrance’s career was an incredible one, for all sorts of reasons.
“I’m glad I played when I did – absolutely. I had a great time, the money is all relative. In the ’80s we had six golfers in Europe who were as good as anyone. They helped all of us to raise our games. Seve was the king and we got on fantastically.”