A number of leading PGA Tour players are taking both sides of the argument to ban the long putter. Webb Simpson who has been using a belly putter has fired up the debate by saying that no one in the top 20 of the Strokes Gained-Putting statistic uses a long putter.
He might be right with that comment, but what stands out to me is that there are numerous players like Adam Scott and Ernie Els who were languishing in 176 and 181 position in Stroke Gained-Putting but after changing to the long putter (Broomstick and Belly) are now in the top 80 in that statistic. This big jump in rankings has allowed these players to be competitive and win tournaments again.
Let’s examine some real facts and how it could affect the game of golf in the future. In last month's Open Championship played at Royal Lytham & St Anne’s 27% of the field used a long putter (26 long and 17 belly) with winner and runner-up having one in the bag.
Another fact that have made the R&A and USGA take notice is that three out of the last four Majors (Keegan Bradley 2011 USPGA, Webb Simpson 2012 US Open and Ernie Els Open Championship 2012) have been won by players using a long putter (Keegan Bradley 2011 USPGA, Webb Simpson 2012 US Open and Ernie Els Open Championship 2012).
Ernie Els in the last decade was on the side of banning the long putter on the PGA Tour but as his stroke gained-putting ranking slipped out to number 180 he started to use the belly putter and has been quoted recently as saying
“As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them!”
Tiger Woods weighed into the debate by suggesting that the putter length should not be longer than the shortest iron in your bag.
As outlined in one of our blogs the length is not the issue but the anchoring of the putter to a third point of the body is what will be ruled upon. Angel Cabrera and Matt Kuchar use a long putter but only hold it in their hands.
The long putter has been around since the 1930’s when Paul Runyan (two times USPGA Champion 1934, 39) used it and there are pictures of him on display at the Riviera Golf Club in Los Angeles. The long putter up to recently has been the last resort of older players (Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples) who were trying to extend their careers for as long as possible.
But now with young players like Keegan Bradley using a belly putter and winning Majors there is a generation of juniors now starting to use long putters from the beginning even before they even try the short putter. I have junior’s aged 9 years to 12 years old whose parents have already put a belly putter in their bag.
It won’t be long before club manufactures will have the belly putter as an option in junior starter sets!
The R&A and USGA will meet in October to discuss what stand they will take on this issue and whatever decision they make it will only come into effect in 2016.
The 94th USPGA Championship being played at Kiawah Island Ocean Course in South Carolina. At 7776 yards in length it is the longest course in Major history eclipsing Hazeltine golf course that hosted the PGA in 2009 by 72 inches.
Kiawah Island is another Pete Dye design and like his other creations Whistling Straights and TPC Sawgrass it will test the players technically and also mentally as every drive, approach and putt is waiting for a lapse in concentration that will translate into a big number on the score card.
This is an important week for the US players as the automatic selection spots numbering eight will be decided for the 2012 Ryder Cup on Sunday at the completion of play. Captain Davis Love III has a very strong and in form team shaping up.
Hunter Mahan a two time winner on the US PGA Tour this year is currently not in the top eight and needs to finish well this week to snatch back the spot Keegan Bradley took by winning last week at the WGC Bridgestone Championship.
In four years time (2016) golf will be back in the Olympics and who do you think will be playing for Australia?
David Milne and Lawrie Montague - Pro Tour Golf College