By Alex Myers
After an opening 62 at the Travelers Championship, Brendan Steele finds himself on top of a leader board for the first time this season. It's also the first time he's used a short putter on the PGA Tour.
Steele took his long putter out of play before the start of this week's event. And after the way he played on Thursday at TPC River Highlands, it's tough to see the shorter club not having a longer stay in his bag.
At the conclusion of his round, Steele had posted a strokes gained/putting of 2.242. Not only is that among the best of those finished with their first rounds, but it would be the 31-year-old's fourth-best putting round of the season.
Steele flirted with shooting a 59 -- he was eight under through 13 holes -- before settling for a 62. Steele leads Ryan Moore and Bud Cauley by one after Day 1.
After his round, Steele's caddie, Sam Pinfold, said Steele went to the short putter for the second round of U.S. Open qualifying at Scioto CC. Although Steele missed qualifying by one shot, Pinfold said he putted much better in the second round and that he's been practicing with it for about a year.
Here's a video of Steele putting with the short putter and using a pencil grip. Of course, the only footage we could find was of him missing a five-footer for birdie on No. 15, but trust us -- and the stats -- he putted well.
For his career, Steele hasn't been an awful putter, but he hasn't been particularly good, either. He came into this tournament ranked No. 76, in strokes gained/putting. However, he ranked 90th, 119th and 120th in his first three full years on tour.
So why make the change now? It could have to do with Steele's previous two tour starts, the Byron Nelson and the Memorial, when he posted strokes gained/putting averages of -1.414 and -1.443 to miss the cut both weeks.
The anchor ban doesn't officially start on the PGA Tour until Jan. 1, 2016. But Steele, who had previously switched to what will still be a legal method of placing his putter against his left forearm (like Matt Kuchar), isn't the first player starting to prepare.
On Tuesday, Kevin Stadler was toying with switching from an anchored putter to a short putter, only he was practicing left-handed. He didn't use that method in Wednesday's pro-am, but says he'd consider it in the future. And just last week, after experimenting with a short putter, Keegan Bradley switched back to his trusted belly putter for the U.S. Open, where he finished T-4.