Sep
14
2011
Bellies Coming On Strong but Don’t Come With Guarantee
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

And you thought it was surprising when Phil picked up a belly...

I really enjoyed this piece from the AP’s Doug Ferguson on the belly putter craze.

You’ll never guess who recently ordered one — just the best putter in the game for at least the past two decades…wait for it…

BRAD FAXON.

Can you hear the swarm of locusts buzzing in the near distance? Take deep breaths, golf purists. Before we start worrying about an impending frog epidemic, Faxon doesn’t plan on actually using it in competition. Like many of us, he was curious and wanted to understand the mania. Via the AP:

“I wanted to see what all the hype was about,” Faxon said.

The belly putter first gained attention when Paul Azinger used one in a seven-shot victory 11 years ago at the Sony Open in Hawaii. The hype to which Faxon refers began last month, when players won three straight PGA Tour events with long putters.

Adam Scott, who in February switched to a long putter that he anchors to his chest, won the World Golf Championship at Firestone. A week later at the PGA Championship, Keegan Bradley (belly) became the first player to win a major using a longer putter. Webb Simpson (belly) won the following week in Greensboro, N.C., and then won again at the TPC Boston.

Maybe it’s more than a fad.

“It’s like the two-handed backhand in tennis,” Faxon said. “Twenty years ago, it was not the norm. Now it’s the better way to go. The belly putter and the long putter are going to trend that way. Young kids are not going to be afraid to switch.”

Want the numbers?

There were six players using longer putters in 2009 and 2010 at The Barclays, the opening playoff event for the top 125 players. This year, the number of long putters jumped to 20.

One of them was Jim Furyk, who is having one of his worst years. Since getting a few pointers from Bradley – three weeks before Bradley won the PGA – he has put himself in position to advance to the Tour Championship.

“Ten years ago, no one ever went to the belly putter unless they couldn’t putt,” Furyk said. “So I didn’t really think of it as unfair. I thought of it as desperation, if that makes sense. For me, it was still desperation, but I’ve seen some guys that have gone to it where they are decent putters, but they think it’s a better way.”

We can always count on Jim Furyk to chime in as the Voice of Reason.

Finally, here’s a great anecdote from Ferguson’s story:

“I like how I putt. I like the conventional wisdom of the short putter. Is that saying it nicely?” Stricker said with a smile.

He did try one at the TPC Boston to see what it was like.

“It was a totally different feel,” he said. “I’m used to following through with my hands.”

Just then, Padraig Harrington walked by and caught the tail end of Stricker’s comments.

“Don’t tell me you’re talking about a long putter,” Harrington said. “The day Steve Stricker goes to a long putter, we’re all in trouble.”

Aaron Baddeley is another great putter. He stared blankly when asked why he isn’t using a belly putter, then understood the point of the question and said the same thing Stricker did.

He then was asked another question. The day pigs fly is when who uses a belly putter?

“Tiger Woods,” he said. “And Brad Faxon.”

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)