My pre-putt routine doesn't resemble Small's. He rehearses the length of the stroke while he's facing his line, when both eyes can judge distance. Then he wipes his blade, addresses his ball, eyes his target several times and lets it go.
This round, though, represented an unusual variety of Small Ball: His putts were missing left and right. He could live with that until we had a chat after his bogey on No. 7.
"This score's going in the paper?" he said. "You've got to tell me! We all have pride, don't we?"
Small's goal for the summer is to qualify for the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Small played there in 1998 and recalled: "I was in the locker room when Jack Nicklaus made a putt on 18 to make the cut. The crowd erupted so loud, the clubhouse shook."
Small shot a birdie-free 78 at Royal Melbourne, perhaps because he spent so much time trying to rehab my putting.
"It's not a pipe dream," he said. "You can be a good putter. You've got to get the ball dirty, man."
18 Holes with … Mike Small
Five-second bio: Short-game whiz has competed in 10 major championships — and has won four straight Big Ten titles as the Illinois men's golf coach.
Where: Royal Melbourne, Long Grove (Shark tees: 6,731 yards).
Small's handicap: Plus-3.
What he shot: 78.
Coaching philosophy: "Take ownership of your game. Don't try to be like Tiger Woods or Luke Donald or Steve Stricker."