Let me take you back to the The (British) Open. Adam Scott, until the last three holes, was in complete command. Ernie Els was steady and sank a birdie putt on the 18th. No big deal. But, Scott did not drive the ball in the fairway on the 18th and subsequently made bogey. His last three holes were a nightmare. This gave Ernie Els The Open title. What do they both have in common? Long(er) putters.
If you recall, I wrote about Ernie’s putting troubles in a previous post. You can read it here. If you watched The Open and any other golf tournament prior to or since then, you will notice the overwhelming use of the long putter. The long putter, although quite controversial, has given life to players who otherwise may have needed life support on the greens. Ernie may be one of those players.
What makes the long putter so controversial? Anchoring. Many commentators and PGA professionals believe that anchoring the putter to your body may be considered cheating. For example, I follow Hank Haney on Twitter. He posted the following as a reply to a question about the long putter:
It is quite conclusive what Hank Haney thinks of the long putter but is it cheating? Is anchoring the putter to your body a way to take out the nerves? Has anyone looked at putting stats? Back to that in a minute.
Haney has also stated on Twitter that he believes long putters will be allowed in the future but without anchoring. Picture a golfer holding the putter just below his chin or just in front of his stomach and making a stroke from there. How will this be monitored? It will be up to the USGA and the R&A.
The long putter has undoubtedly rescued some fledgling careers on the greens. Or so it may seem. Take my example from above. Adam Scott uses a long putter. To the naked eye, his putting statshave improved (you would think) but he is currently ranked 169th in total putts and 156th in total birdies. Let’s look a little closer at Scott’s stats:
Putts 5-10 ft: 51% (158th)
Putts 10-15: 36% (14th)
Putts 15-20: 14% (150th)
Putts 20-25: 12% (73rd)
Putts > 25: 11% (1st)
What do you see in these stats? I certainly see inconsistency. I’m not sure that banning or altering the rules for the long putter is necessary. I realize this is only one player but I’m sure that many other players mirror Scott’s stats in that there are strengths and weaknesses when comparing distance to percentage made.
The USGA and R&A will, I’m sure, do their due diligence when coming up with a ruling. Technology has always been a point of contention with golf. I’m just not sure banning or modifying the use of the long putter is necessary.
That’s the long and short of it.
One last thing. I do know one rule that should be modified. . He will tell you.
Scott Kapla, Mike Fay Golf Staff Writer