A plea on behalf of the long putter
Anyone familiar with the various golf games of media hacks (not all are hacks, by the way, just the majority) knows that I'm a huge proponent of the anchored putter. I've been using the broom handle ever since I four-jacked it from two feet playing at a Connecticut course with former Golf Digest instruction editor Ed Weathers and retired Golf World editor Terry Galvin. The latter has yet to let me live it down. Fifteen years later!
Upon hearing of my embarrassing feat, then-company CEO Jay Fitzgerald, himself a recovering yipper, called me into his office and handed me a 48-inch, steel-shafted crutch that saved my golfing life. That's the reason I empathize with every convert of the anchored putter currently quaking in his spikes over the much-to-do about his blessed broom. If golf's ruling bodies decide to ban the use of anchored putters by professionals, I will be the first one crying for them.
I feel your pain, my brothers.
"It would really affect me if they were to ban it,'' said Carl Pettersson on the eve of the 94th PGA Championship at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course during another in a series of rain delays.
Like me, Pettersson uses the chest-high variety. Unlike me, however, the 38th-ranked player in the world makes his living sweeping in putts. That's why it's such a hot-button issue with him and fellow converts Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els, who combined to win three of the past four majors. Before that newfound pattern of broom handle success scared the knickers off so-called purists, there may have been whimpers from the offended but nothing like the clamoring for justice we hear now.
Pettersson and I started using the long putter about the same time for different reasons. I had the yips. His ball had an aversion to finding the hole at the most inopportune times.
"I started using it because of inconsistency when I was an amateur,'' he said. "One day I would putt great and the next I'd be average. I knew for me to get to the next level I needed to be more consistently good and I saw a few guys back in the day using it. They all seemed to roll it well. I tried it and it didn't feel alien to me. So, I practiced for a couple of hours, and I've used one ever since. I've become a very good putter with it.''
That's an understatement. Pettersson is ranked T-11 in the strokes gained putting category of the PGA Tour putting statistics. Aaron Baddeley leads those stats and world No. 1 Luke Donald is fourth. In contrast, three-time winner this season, Tiger Woods, ranks T-35. In Pettersson's case, fear the broom handle.
At the center of the debate is whether anchoring a putter gives a player a decided advantage over the more-nervy natural strokes.
"I don't think there is an advantage because if there were, everybody would use it,'' he says. "Some guys can't do it, some can. It's not like you give somebody a long putter and automatically they're going to be a good putter. You still have to work at it and develop a technique.''
Some long putter enthusiasts use their hand to propel the ball; some use arms and hands. Pettersson prefers to rock his shoulders, taking the hands almost entirely out of the stroke.
"I try to let my shoulders dictate the stroke and take the hands out of it,'' he says. "Take the little muscles out of it so to speak.''
There is no definitive way to determine whether the anchored putter gives players an advantage over similarly skilled players. The stats reveal little. Bradley and Simpson, ranked 15th and T-35, respectively, in strokes gained, also insist you still have to put in the hours to become successful on tour greens. They also agree with Pettersson that the powers that be have more major concerns regarding equipment.
"There are other parts of the game that are really getting out of hand,'' Pettersson said. "The drivers and the golf ball need to be addressed more than the long putter in my opinion.''
Spoken like a man attempting to stroke the collective conscious of the gate- keepers.
I, for one, hope he's successful.