The long and short, both on putters and pants

Ernie Els celebrates dropping the putt at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that would win him this year's...

Ernie Els celebrates dropping the putt at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that would win him this year's British Open. "As long as it's legal, I'll keep cheating like the rest of them," Els has said of using a long putter. Lee Westwood (left) sports shorts at a recent event in Turkey. (Reuters)

Jon McCarthy, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:11 PM ET

If you’re not really into golf then prepare to fall asleep in 10 seconds.

How’s that for drawing new readers in?

There is no point sugar coating it when you’re about to talk about rule changes in golf. For the average sports fan it’s a mind-numbing topic. That’s the long and short of it. And the long and short of it is exactly where we are heading.

On Tuesday, the Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard reported that he had received a text message from USGA boss Mike Davis saying that the sport’s American-based governing body will, as expected, make a ruling on the use of long putters before the end of the year.

It’s widely expected that their ruling will have less to do with the length of the putter and more to do with the act of anchoring it to your body during the stroke.

Whether anchored to your belly or against your chest, the simple argument is that it takes away from the spirit of the game by creating a crutch for wonky nerves that have killed countless putting strokes.

Think of how simply the pendulum of a grandfather clock swings back and forth. Now, think of taking it apart and trying to re-create that motion swinging it with your two hands.

Not easy. And grandpa is going to be pissed that you took apart his clock.

Supporters of the long putter (mainly equipment manufacturers and golfers that use long putters) argue that the stats don’t show a clear advantage in using a long putter.

Call me crazy but I think these numbers get skewed by the fact that the majority of golfers that switch to a long putter are doing so because they got tired of throwing their short putters in the lake. To put it simply, they’re not necessarily the best putters in the first place.

In fact, I don’t need any stats to convince me that an anchored putter is an advantage. The number of club pros and golf buddies that have whispered to me on the practice green, “Pssst, have you tried a long putter?” is proof enough.

Ernie Els summed it up best with his instant-classic quote: “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”

And “the rest of them” is growing at a furious rate.

At this year’s British Open there were 27 long putters and 16 belly putters used by the 156 golfers. That’s over a quarter of the field at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Club manufacturers also have a dog in this fight. The sale of long putters has sky-rocketed and companies likely are still sitting on thousands of square-grooved wedges that were outlawed for use by pros on the top tours in 2010.

On a sidenote, if any manufacturer wants to clear out room at their warehouse feel free to send all the illegal wedges to the Toronto Sun for proper disposal. Since amateurs can still use them until 2024 that should give me plenty of time to wrap each of them around a tree.

It’s pretty clear I don’t think pros should be able to anchor putters but the real question is, what do we do with the rule?

A lot of golf experts are pushing for bifurcation — a fancy word for having separate rules for pros and amateurs. In other words, ban them on tour but let the rest of us continue to stick those oversized putters into our oversized bellies.

I disagree.

Golf, so far, has resisted two sets of rules when it comes to driver technology and ball technology to the point that a great number of classic courses on tour have turned into a joke. There’s a strong argument that this has hurt the game, but it does mean that amateurs head out to the course knowing that they play under the same rules as the pros. Why stop now?

If the USGA is leaning toward allowing putters of all lengths but banning the act of anchoring, I think they are on the right path.

Players will be able to continue to use long putters. They will just have to modify their stroke. Think of Adam Scott’s putting stroke with the long putter but move his top hand an inch off his chest.

Club manufacturers will still be able to produce long putters. Golfers with bad backs will still have a way to putt without bending over.

And hackers can continue to do whatever the hell they like with their long putter as long as they don’t plan on keeping a handicap or playing me for money.

If you have a problem with my solution, give me a call — but see if you can do it without anchoring the phone to your ear.

THE SHORT STUFF

We said we were going to get into the long and short of the rules. Well, the short part of the rules has to do with slacks, or lack of them.

Players at last week’s eight-man Turkish Airlines World Golf Final were given the option of ditching their trousers for shorts.

On the first day of the matches four of the eight players decided to bare their legs. In an unlikely twist, all four matches featured a player in trousers versus a player in shorts. Skins beat slacks in three out of four matches with Hunter Mahan, who fell to Justin Rose, being the only bare-legged player to lose on Day 1.

Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar and Charl Schwartzel also showed some leg and triumphed over slackers Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Webb Simpson.

Should players be able to wear shorts on the course?

I’m all for tradition in golf but I have no interest in watching Rory and Tiger play in tweed jackets and neckties.

Besides, the reason golfers used to wear such heavy outfits was because they were playing in Scotland, not Scottsdale.

If it’s hot, let them wear shorts. If you find shorts more revolting than a backside full of sweat stains, you’re taking tradition too far.

For the record, Rose went on to win the event … in trousers.


Videos

Photos