Luke List didn’t have to think long when CBS analyst Colt Knost asked him what had changed in the seconds after claiming his first PGA Tour victory at the Farmers Insurance Open this weekend, largely because the answer wasn’t hard to come by.
“Everything,” List said earnestly, a smile strewn across his face.
So there you have it. All you’ve gotta to do go from 189th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting to 8th in the field in your first victory is change … everything.
Okay sure, it sounds daunting, but for Luke List, changing everything stopped being much of an option late last year. It was then that List, 37, realized he’d been a full-time PGA Tour member for seven years, and during that time, he’d likely been the worst putter in professional golf.
Yes, in the seven-year stretch dating back to the 2015-16 season, Luke List has seven times been ranked between 150th and 200th on the PGA Tour in putting. The high watermark of that era — a 152nd-place finish — came in his first year on the PGA Tour. In the years since, he’d darted closer and closer to 200th, most recently averaging -.629 strokes gained: putting per round, good for 189th on tour, or to the layman, seven spots out of DFL.
List’s stretch of putting incompetence was confounding to everyone, including the man himself. In List’s own estimation, his putting stroke wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t like he had the yips, either. His putts just missed the mark with startling frequency.
So, when List took off for the year in the winter months, he decided it was time, once and for all, to change everything. He hired Stephen Sweeney, a PGA professional and putting consultant based out of Florida, and the two got to work.
“We got together in December and he was pretty much expecting me to have the worst stroke ever and yips,” List recalled. “He got down there, he’s like, ‘Listen, you’re doing what you’re trying to do really well, it’s just not what you should be doing.’”
Sweeney rebuilt List’s fundamentals from the ground up during that short stretch (“I worked my butt off,” List said). But soon after the work began, it was time for List to return to life on the PGA Tour — time for him to see whether all that effort had paid dividends.
His first start of the year came at the American Express (yes, the very same American Express Jon Rahm disgustedly called a ‘putting competition’ in a hot mic video last week), and brought with it mixed results: a T21 finish (good!) during which List ranked 51st in the 70-player field in strokes gained: putting (not so good!).
But then the tour turned to the — shall we say ‘forgiving‘ — contours at Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open, and the light went on. List led the field in strokes gained: putting on Thursday, a career-first, and finished the week eighth overall.
More importantly, the week marked List’s first PGA Tour win ever, a feat that came in no small part due to a surge in confidence with the flatstick in his hands.
“I told my caddie I was happy with the week regardless, the way I fought today,” List said. “We’ve made such huge strides in my putting and just certain areas and mentally. Just to have the opportunity, that’s all you can ask for.”
In the end, Luke List changed everything and a short while later, everything changed.