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Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Debate Over Long Putters Continues

It's not going to go away, despite the rule change. Two Golfweek articles make that very clear.

The first article from January 7th talked about the continuing unrest on the Champions Tour over Scott McCarron and Bernhard Langer's usage of the long sticks, even though they don't anchor them. To quote the article:
“It’s a huge issue,” says Tom Pernice Jr., a five-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions. “A lot of players aren’t going to say anything about it to the press. It’s not fair. If you’re playing for a living, there’s a skill level in putting and that is being able to control the fulcrum point.”
Pernice then goes on to say that just allowing a player's hand to brush their shirt during the stroke makes a difference:
"In my opinion that’s enough of a reference to be able to control the fulcrum point."
I'm not at all sure I agree with that, since you could be brushing anywhere on your shirt. In fact, you could argue that holding both arms straight and rocking your shoulders with a standard putter also provides a 'reference point for the fulcrum point.' But that doesn't seem to bother anybody...

And the second article from February 9th (Friday) seems to make exactly the opposite argument as Pernice. Apparently Adam Scott's return to the long putter, though emboldened by Langer and McCarron's success, lasted exactly one tournament. Adam is once again using a short putter this week at Pebble Beach after shooting 71-74 to miss the cut at the Aussie PGA:
“I want to stick with the short putter,” Scott told The Forecaddie. “… I don’t just want to chop and change or I won’t get anywhere. I want to stick with it. I think in the long run it will be good.”
Look, folks. There's no silver bullet when it comes to putting. What works for one player won't work for another... and even though it works this week, it may not work next week. That's just part of being human rather than a machine.

But knowing that won't change anybody's mind, simply because it's easier to blame your lack of success on someone else using an unfair technique. I'm not calling Pernice a crybaby, but the USGA says that what Langer and McCarron are doing is legal, which means Pernice (and those other players he alluded to) could use it as well. If he chooses not to, that's his decision. But just because he chooses not to doesn't make it illegal. And I suspect that, if he tried it, he'd make the same discovery that Adam Scott made...

The unanchored long putter isn't a silver bullet. It still takes work to get good with it, just like any other technique. And maybe, just maybe, the difference in effectiveness between Langer and McCarron and the rest of the Tour has more to do with practice than anything else. The fact that Adam Scott couldn't make it work -- despite years of using an anchored long putter -- seems to back that up.

But as I said before, it's clear that this issue isn't going away anytime soon.

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