Verdict long overdue on long putter

Ernie Els of South Africa throws his ball into the crowd after his birdie putt on the 18th green...

Ernie Els of South Africa throws his ball into the crowd after his birdie putt on the 18th green during the final round of the British Open golf championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes, northern England July 22, 2012. (REUTERS)

TIM MCKAY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:06 AM ET

As the debate rages on, one thing is certain: It's time the USGA and R&A stopped puttering around on the issue of long, or anchored, putters.

During the British Open and Senior British Open last month, the controversy was at the fore.

Ernie Els won with his long putter at the British Open while Adam Scott lost with his. When the seniors took centre stage last week at Turnberry, it was Fred Couples winning with a long putter, and long-time proponent Bernhard Langer -- who came into the final round in the lead and had a Scott-like run of bogeys -- standing up in defence of the club.

"The thing I don't understand they have been talking about it for seven, eight, nine years now, right?" Langer said last week.

"And the long putter has been out 30 years, 35 years now. To me, it's a little surprising that they are trying to get rid of something that has been out that long and used by a number of people."

Langer, who first tried a long putter almost 20 years ago, said the fact golf's governing bodies only now have decided to make a ruling on the issue is hypocritical.

"So it was OK until somebody won a major (Keegan Bradley, 2011 PGA), and then it's not OK? I don't take that argument whatsoever, sorry. There were guys using it for 25 years, nobody won a major, 30 years; and now because two or three guys have won, it's illegal?  That doesn't make sense."

Another argument: If it is cheating to use a long putter, why isn't everyone doing it?

Robert Garrigus -- who went from a ridiculously short 28-inch putter to a long version -- said it best after a frustrating Sunday at the Canadian Open.

"It's kind of frustrating to hear that (golf officials) are going to take it away because (they believe making putts with the long wand) is automatic," he said. "I'd have shot 45 under if it was automatic this week."

The USGA and the R&A have said they want to make a statement about long putters in a matter of "months rather than years," and that it likely would address only the anchoring of the club in the chest, rather than the length.

It's already too late.

LOSER TALK

Greg Norman, who, along with the late Seve Ballesteros, helped spearhead the effort to get golf back in the Olympics, said this week he loves the Games because they celebrate competitors other than just the winners.

"You know what I love about the Olympics?," Norman said. "If you win a bronze medal, you are a hero. If you finish third in a golf tournament, you are a choker."

He should know. Norman, even though he had a great career, is the poster boy for choking -- most notably his meltdown at the 1996 Masters.

Norman also commiserated with Adam Scott following the latter's crushing defeat at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. Scott addressed the issue Wednesday in his news conference from Akron, Ohio.

"I'm disappointed that I didn't win from that position (a four-shot lead with four holes to play)," Scott said. "But I left that major the same as I've left every other one, and that's empty"'handed." 

Unfortunately for the Aussies, second place doesn't mean much in golf. At least not until 2016.

EASY RYDER

It's a nice problem to have, but it doesn't make U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Davis Love III's job any easier.

With just 10 days to go until the points-race cutoff to earn an automatic berth on the American squad, there are some pretty good players outside the top eight.

The players ranked from nine to 15 respectively are Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker, Bo Van Pelt and Jim Furyk, all of whom will tee it up this week at the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational.

Hunter Mahan holds down eighth spot in the ranking while Phil Mickelson is at No. 7.

Depending on what shakes down over the next week or so, Love, who makes his four captain's picks in September, could avoid controversy by picking Nos. 9-12 from the points list.

The European squad uses a more convoluted qualifying process that combines European Tour and world standing lists, taking the top 10 on Aug. 26 and giving captain Jose Maria Olazabal two picks.

As it stands, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter are on the outside and may need to rely on captain's picks.

Modified, but improved?

This week's PGA Tour event, the Reno-Tahoe Open, has decided to go with a modified Stableford scoring system to differentiate itself from the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

"This is a change that truly sets us apart from other tournaments ... We're very excited to see how this new scoring format plays out in 2012," Jana Smoley, the tournament's executive director, told PGATour.com.

The modified Stableford system is based on points in relation to par and the highest score wins. A double-eagle is worth 8 points, an eagle is 5, birdie is 2, par is 0, bogey -1, double-bogey or worse -3.

Not sure that adding a confusing scoring system will help draw attention to an opposite-field event that's going up against a WGC tournament with the likes of Tiger Woods in the field.

CLAWS ARE OUT

It's still heavily debated whether Woods' game is back, but it's clear his confidence is.

At Wednesday's WGC news conference, Woods was asked: "If you had to vote for a guy for player of the year, would you take a guy with three wins and no major, or a guy with a major?"

"It's not over yet," Woods said wryly.

 


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