LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Although there remains 36 holes of windy golf at the Open Championship, imagine for a moment the impact an Adam Scott victory could have on the future of the game?
If the Australian lifts the claret jug he would become the third player in the last four major championships to win using a longer-than-standard-length putter, a reality that would only fan an already heated debate over the club’s future.
On Saturday at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis talked with GolfChannel.com about the ongoing discussions to either adjust the current Rules of Golf and deem the club, and anchoring, non-conforming or maintain the status quo.
“We are committed to give some sort of answer this year,” Davis said before venturing out as a walking rules official with the Tiger Woods group at Lytham. “The reason for that is we’ve told the world we’re taking a fresh look at this mostly because in the last year and half things have changed.”
Last year Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major using a longer-than-standard-length putter and Webb Simpson followed him to the winner’s circle at last month’s U.S. Open. Scott would make it a cool threesome.
“My putting with the short putter was so hot and cold, and before I switched it was more often cold than hot,” said Scott, who is currently tied for 15th in putting with a 1.53 average. “I putt much more consistent with it, which has a really positive effect on the rest of my game. It takes a little pressure off the rest of my game.”
But, according to Davis, this has less to do with what’s happening at the game’s highest levels than it does the growing popularity of long putters at the grassroots level.
“There’s a lot more recreational players going to this. There are instructors who are telling golfers this is a better way to putt and this wasn’t happening before,” Davis said. “While this has been around for a decade, or decades, it’s different now. We’re seeing a lot more used, particularly in the United States.”
Although the governing bodies plan to make a decision before the end of the year, Davis said he doesn’t anticipate an actual change to occur before the end of the current rules cycle, which runs until January 2016.
Davis stressed that no decision has been made on the issue and that officials from the USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews will meet this week to discuss the subject.
“We’re coming to the point where it is our hope that by this fall we have made a final decision,” he said. “Are we happy with this stroke? Is it something that 50 years from now if 50 percent of the golf public is using this are we happy with that? That’s really the issue.”
As for the idea that a potential Scott victory this week would tip the scales against long putters Davis was clear, “That has almost zero to do with it. If we did something we talked about this before any of these guys won majors. We took this to the table before that.”