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.
Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite
Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.
Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.
Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.
Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:
12/1: Dustin Johnson
16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose
20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed
40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick
60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson
80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele
100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen
Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC
If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.
Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.
Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.
There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.
There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.
Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.
John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.
Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.
Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.
Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.
“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”
Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.
“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”
But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.
“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”
Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.
Hoylake in 2006.
That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.
So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?
“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”
With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?
“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”