More Players Weigh In on the Great Belly/Long Putter Debate
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Ernie sucked up his pride last year

Since golf’s governing bodies, the USGA and the R&A, announced that they were taking a “fresh look” at implementing a rule to ban belly/long putters or “anchoring,” inquiring minds have asked some of the biggest names in golf for their opinions. Of course, last week at Pebble Beach Tiger Woods shocked us all when he gave his most opinionated answer in years (obviously he is a strong proponent of banning them). Here, at Riviera in the pre-tourney pressers, other esteemed players chimed in.


Ernie Els, who switched to the belly putter at The Heritage last spring, is all for getting rid of long putters.

“Although I’ve used it for — what, six months now, I feel the same as most of the traditionalists.  I feel that no club should be anchored to your body.  I don’t know how they’re going to go around it, maybe use a putter as long as you want as long as it’s not anchored to your body any way, even up your arm.  You see a lot of the guys use it in their armpits now.

“Nothing should be anchored to your body, and I believe‑‑ I still believe that.  I was in such a state that I felt that I needed to change something, which I did.  I went to the belly.  It hasn’t really helped me that much, but it has helped me.  But I’m for it.  Ban it.  It’s fine.”

Next, Adam Scott, who switched to the chest putter after the 2010 season and then wowed the world with his clutch putting at the 2011 Masters, gives his take:

“Well, I didn’t know they were taking another fresh look at it.  I’m sure they’re going to keep looking at all different areas of the game, as well.  But it is what it is.  There are people for and against it.  Obviously they’re not completely against it or we wouldn’t be putting with them at all.  You know, I don’t have anything to say.  I think it works for me.  It might not work for others unless they give it a try.

“But just like everything in golf, it changes.  Driver heads weren’t 460 cc’s when the game started, just like people didn’t putt with a belly putter when the game started.  So things change, and I guess it’s up to the R&A and the USGA to keep the game in the best shape possible with what they think.  Whatever they think goes at the end of the day, so we’ll see.  It’s not going to ruin me if they ban a long putter one day because I putted good some weeks with the short putter.  I won a lot of tournaments.  I’ll just have to work a bit harder with it.”

Then, Fred Couples rambles offers his two cents:

“I think (the USGA and R&A are) pretty smart.  Whatever they do is okay with me.  I mean, I use a belly putter.  I don’t know what year I started, maybe 2003.  So I’ve used it a long time.  I don’t even know‑‑ maybe nine holes one time I played with a buddy down at the club and he had what I thought was a great‑looking Ping putter so I used it for a while because it was like the one I used to use.

“It would take a while for me, but what I would probably do is go to whatever the longest putter that they would say would be usable, and that’s probably what I’d use, because it’s hard for me to hinge or bend over.  That’s really why I went to that putter, because it wasn’t letting me bend over any further.  So once it hit you, you couldn’t tilt, and that’s when I would get these little twinges.

“It would be‑‑ for me personally, to make a perfect decision, it would be nice to go to like some college events to see if these kids are using it because then I would think they’d have to take a close look.  You’re 13 years old and you’re using it because maybe you putt better, not because you’re 45 or 44 and you have a back problem or you have the yips or you have the claw or you have cross‑hand or you split‑grip it or whatever you do.  There’s a lot of ways to skin a cat.  And whatever they decide, then we’ll all end up doing.

“I’m not going to sit here and say I think it would be a mistake if they got rid of the belly putter or a long putter that you put your hand up on your chest or in your chin or whatever.  You know, it’s kind of a decision they’ll make, and I’m sure it’ll be good for the game of golf, and then we’ll go from there.”

I’m still not sure where Couples stands.

Finally, Phil Mickelson doesn’t really seem to care one way or the other, but he’s still upset with the USGA about the whole groove issue.

Q.  Just to get back to the putter question for a second, if, in fact, the USGA ruled that anchoring the putter, the belly putter, would be illegal, and what you said, would you be in favor of having a local rule out here that would allow those players that have been basically playing with that putter for their entire careers to be able to play with that putter if they wanted to?

PHIL MICKELSON:  I don’t really have a stance or an opinion on the belly putter.  I just think that to have something be legal for 27 years or 30, I don’t know how many years it’s been legal, and then to take it away where guys have been growing up now practicing and playing with it, I just don’t think that that’s fair to those players at all.

Q.  There’s been a lot of change, obviously the USGA has made a lot of changes in your career in regards to equipment and everything else.  Do you think at the end that all these changes make sense and that it’s really changed how you’ve dealt with these because it seems like everybody is still hitting the ball as far as they want to and the grooves change didn’t really do much and now they’re talking about looking at other things?

PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, what the grooves change has really done is hurt the amateur golfer or will hurt the amateur golfer in the future for the simple that the fact older grooves had the greatest impact on the wedges and the short irons.  Given that the high handicapper never hits a green in regulation, the 36‑handicapper doesn’t, the 8‑handicapper hits all but three or four or five, those players are going to be hitting their shot onto the green with a wedge.  So it’s going to end up affecting those guys a lot more and their inability to stop the ball on the green will be even greater.

I don’t think that that rule turned out to be the best.  Given that my iron play, my grooves were weak to begin with on all my irons except my wedges, my spin rate has gone up 300 rpms per iron since I’ve gone to Callaway groove.  It actually spins it more than the V‑grooves I used to use because I had V in my irons.  So I don’t see‑‑ the only area I see it affecting is around the greens, and it’s going to affect the average guy a lot more than it is somebody like us out here who has the ability to control their wedges and have a good short game.