Winners at the last three PGA Tour events have used non-traditional putters, renewing the debate on whether or not the USGA and R&A should ban them. Last Sunday Webb Simpson earned his first victory using a belly putter. The week before, rookie Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship while also wielding a belly, making him the first to capture a major with a long putter. And the week prior to that, Adam Scott used a broomstick putter anchored to his chest to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Asked during his presser at Plainfield Country Club, the site of this week’s opening FedExCup event The Barclays, on his thoughts, Phil Mickelson said he didn’t have any problem with long putters.
“I think that there’s more to it than just starting the ball online and putting,” said Mickelson. “You have to read the green correctly. You have to start the ball online, which the belly putter I think really helps, but you also have to have the right speed.
“And if it were going to be banned, it should have happened 20-plus years ago. But now that it’s been legal, I don’t think you can make it retroactive. There have been guys that have been working with that putter for years if not decades. I just don’t believe that it should even be a consideration.”
But Mickelson added that golf’s governing bodies have been retroactive on grooves (remember Groove-gate last year?) and the paddle grip, which was legal for three decades.
Traditionally, players only switched to the long putter as a last resort with the implication they had come down with a bad case of the yips or simply weren’t very good putters. (Which until recently has been my view. I’ve never even tried a belly on the practice green, but now I’m rather curious — especially since the flatstick was always my Achilles heel. Problem is, I don’t know if I can find one that fits me!)
Mickelson has missed some memorable short putts in the last few years, including at pivotal moments. Most recently, he flubbed several short putts at the British Open to kill the momentum to his final-round surge at the British Open in July. Would Mickelson ever resort to trying a non-traditional putter?
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” he said. “But I think there are certain things technique-wise that you have to understand to do it well, to putt well with it. It swings differently than a normal putter in your hands and I don’t know those idiosyncrasies, those little secrets, if you will. So I don’t really putt very effectively with it.”
Mickelson said he’s taken a few practice strokes with a belly putter on the rare occasion he’s spotted a left-handed one.
Would it surprise me if Phil tried to tinker with a long wand in the near future? Not really.
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)