The Long and Short of Long Putters
How is it that our drivers cant be too springy in the face, too long (soon), or overly big (ditto); our putters cant have goofy twisted necks; and our golf balls have to stay within a distance standard but its fine to anchor a putter handle to our sternums?
The long putter bothers me. Yes, I know it has saved many careers. I know it has de-yipped golfers by the thousands. I know putting is still a mystical science no matter the length of the wand the player wields.
But to me, being able to steady a club against the body doesnt feel like golf.
I hear you now: Barr, Barr, Barr. Ive seen you play. In some states, youre not even allowed on a golf course. Until you can hire a lackey to play for you and admit it, you should be in favor of anything that makes the game easier.
Well, its supposed to be fun, but golf isnt meant to be easy. Isnt that what the games historical pillars have said? Heck, Jack Nicklaus has said its not even supposed to be fair.
The lack of concern over the long putter has befuddled me. Dining with a senior U.S. Golf Association official not long ago, I asked about the future of the long wand. I expected to hear an execution date, but what I got was a shrug.
Its not going anywhere, the official said. The R&A doesnt really care about it one way or the other, so theres no huge movement to ban it.
In the world-game era of golf, uniformity between the ruling bodies is prized, so neither the USGA nor the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews is willing to do much without consenting with the other.
But in a game where success depends upon negotiating a speeding hunk of metal at the end of a stick using only your hands, why wouldnt a body-based pivot give one pause? Is the regulatory agenda simply too full for another item?
Perhaps. And perhaps, as well, long putters dont offer the physical advantage the USGA fears from hot drivers and hotter golf balls. But the USGAs best and brightest proudly include in their mission the commitment to make golf recognizable through the centuries. If Allan Robertson, the 19th-century Scot who is generally acclaimed as the games first professional, were to step up to the starter at Bay Hill today, the USGA would want him to recognize his beloved 'gowf.' And if Arnold Palmer could be catapulted into the future to check out the game as played by the crew of the Enterprise, the bluecoats would want him to be able to recognize golf then too.
Ive never seen historical material that suggests widespread use ' or any use ' of long putters in the games infancy. Neither has Rusty, one of The Golf Channels more avid golf history enthusiasts.
Rusty, my producer for our Whats In The Bag? equipment show, which premieres in April, is a long-putter devotee. As a matter of fact, hes sitting next to me on the plane as I write this, muttering something about divine retribution as he looks for a long putter to beat me with. While he searches the overhead bins, he reminds me that people still miss putts, and that the ever-present rub of the green misdirects more putts than an anchored putter can keep on line.
Undeniably, this is true. But even in a game defined by regulations, the subjective plays a role. The USGA officers themselves speak in terms of what golf looks like and feels like, venturing far beyond .83 and 460 cubic centimeters and 280 yards, plus or minus 6 percent.
High COR and hot balls dont feel like golf to them. Long putters dont feel like golf to me. (Neither does riding in carts, but thats another column.) Long putters do feel like golf to Rusty, a scrappy 9-handicapper who actually long-putts croquet style: Facing the hole, not straddling, putter handle jammed up near his armpit. He rarely three-jacks.
Maybe the length of the putter isnt the point. Ill play with Rusty (and take my six a side, you betcha); we both know whats in the little white book. The rules allow him to use that putter. They allow me to have a driver head big enough to show a movie on. Even the best game in the world isnt perfect ' no game is ' and we all have to put up with its imperfections. (Ask Roger Clemens about this issue in the visitors half of the second or third inning of any away World Series game he pitches.)
The game needs to be regulated. It also needs to be debated. Thats how it lives.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.