TORONTO - Rod Spittle of Niagara Falls was in familiar territory yesterday at the Ace Group Classic, where he tied for sixth although he didn’t put the heat on eventual winner Bernhard Langer, who finished seven shots ahead of Spittle at that Champions Tour event in Naples, Fla.
That came a week after Spittle just missed on a birdie putt on the final hole of the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Fla., allowing eventual champion Tom Lehman to edge him by just one stroke.
Spittle’s results this year have the deep thinkers in Canadian golf predicting in February that national pride this year will centre around Spittle, who was fifth on the money list with $172,000 before heading to Naples. It’s a theory that Spittle thinks is a bit premature at this point.
“It’s very flattering,” Spittle said. “If we’re having the same conversation eight or 10 months from now, then perhaps, it will be a little more fun. While it’s snowing back home, we’ll do the best we can to keep the Canadian flag flying down here.”
What makes the current theory so attractive is that Spittle is widely acknowledged as a genuine nice guy, not to mention a classic long shot to reach his current level on the Champions Tour.
Spittle, 55, was seriously considering the end of his touring career until winning the season-ending AT&T Championship in San Antonio last year.
“It was a little iffy a few months ago and it’s just amazing how quickly that page has changed,” said Spittle, a two-time Canadian Amateur champ.
That victory in San Antonio earned Spittle his current ticket on the Champions Tour, where he started the season with a tie for 16th at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii.
The tie for second at the Allianz a week ago had two positive results for Spittle in terms of money and confidence and his result yesterday will only intensify the positive aura that surrounds him lately.
“Winning in San Antonio was an amazing way to finish the year and, obviously, it gives us the status of playing full-time this year and with our start in Hawaii and the (Allianz), we couldn’t have scripted this any better,” said Spittle, who has been working with Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member Bob Panasik.
“Our win (in San Antonio) gives us the chance to play in all the tournaments and that’s our plan. Obviously, our longevity out here now, moving forward, is our position on the money list every year and we have our goals set this year,” he said, adding the money won so far is a solid foundation to the season.
However, his ability to walk up 18 with established veterans and enjoy the level of success he’s had so far does wonders for the confidence as well as the bank account.
“That’s really the piece of the puzzle that’s been missing for the last couple of years. I can’t tell you how tickled I am that my game has stayed together,” Spittle said.
“To have played the way I did is extremely gratifying and it just goes to show that the hard work that we continue to put in is paying off,” he added.
It’s paying off from tee to green, he reports, including the ever-perplexing short game.
“My short game and my putting continue to improve and that’s the difference, I think, once you start to sneak into the top 10. I continue to watch those stats,” he said.
“When your putter is hot, you can make five or six or seven or eight birdies a round and that’s where low scores come from,” he said.
Those low scores kept coming yesterday, when he was six under in the final round, which will keep the positive vibes going for at least another few weeks.