Belly putter not foolproof, but becoming a trend

By Doug FergusonSeptember 13, 2011, 11:12 pm

LEMONT, Ill. – Even more surprising than Phil Mickelson using a belly putter at the second stage of the FedEx Cup playoffs was a direct message that showed up during the weekend on Twitter.

“I have a belly putter!”

It came from Brad Faxon, who, when contacted Tuesday in South Korea for confirmation, had just been told by security that he and Jeff Sluman were not allowed to play cribbage in the hotel lobby because it was too close to the casino.

Can you believe that?” Faxon said.

The ban on cribbage? Sure.

A belly putter for the guy reputed to be among the best in golf with the short stick? Hard to believe.

“I’m dead serious,” Faxon said.

Only a week earlier, he said the belly putter for most people was a “second, third, fourth or last resort” when all else had failed, and that some USGA officials, no doubt, were turning in their graves for not ruling against the concept of anchoring a putter to the body. Faxon then called Paul Vizanko at the Scotty Cameron Putting Studio in California and ordered one.

Before anyone starts looking for dogs and cats to fall from the sky, Faxon said he won’t be using the belly putter on the Champions Tour this week in South Korea or anywhere else in competition. He was simply curious.

“I wanted to see what all the hype was about,” Faxon said.

The belly putter first gained attention when Paul Azinger used one in a seven-shot victory 11 years ago at the Sony Open in Hawaii. The hype to which Faxon refers began last month, when players won three straight PGA Tour events with long putters.

Adam Scott, who in February switched to a long putter that he anchors to his chest, won the World Golf Championship at Firestone. A week later at the PGA Championship, Keegan Bradley (belly) became the first player to win a major using a longer putter. Webb Simpson (belly) won the following week in Greensboro, N.C., and then won again at the TPC Boston.

Maybe it’s more than a fad.

“It’s like the two-handed backhand in tennis,” Faxon said. “Twenty years ago, it was not the norm. Now it’s the better way to go. The belly putter and the long putter are going to trend that way. Young kids are not going to be afraid to switch.”

There have been ample anecdotes about an entire threesome using a long putter. Ian Poulter tweeted that of 10 guys on the practice green in Boston, eight had long putters.

More telling are raw numbers.

There were six players using longer putters in 2009 and 2010 at The Barclays, the opening playoff event for the top 125 players. This year, the number of long putters jumped to 20.

One of them was Jim Furyk, who is having one of his worst years. Since getting a few pointers from Bradley - three weeks before Bradley won the PGA - he has put himself in position to advance to the Tour Championship.

“Ten years ago, no one ever went to the belly putter unless they couldn’t putt,” Furyk said. “So I didn’t really think of it as unfair. I thought of it as desperation, if that makes sense. For me, it was still desperation, but I’ve seen some guys that have gone to it where they are decent putters, but they think it’s a better way.”

The debate is whether such putters should be banned because, some would argue, anchoring them to the belly or the chest eliminates the skill. The USGA has shown little interest in ruling against them, and some believe it’s too late now.

Azinger thinks the argument is hollow.

“Everyone wants to act like it’s foolproof,” he said. “It’s been around for 11 years. Now somebody does something and it blows up. You’ve still got to make putts under pressure to win. Ernie Els has jacked so many short putts with a belly putter, and I didn’t hear anyone complaining about them.”

Azinger still doesn’t know what made him try it at his home club in Florida toward the end of 1999. There was a longer putter that had been made for someone much shorter than him. For some reason, he stuck the end of the putter into his belly button.

“I was making stuff all over the pro shop,” Azinger said.

He switched the putter head to one he liked. He changed the lie and angle. He moved the ball back in his stance and put more weight on his right leg to make him feel anchored.

“I was instantly better,” Azinger said. “Paul Runyan watched me putting in 2000 and said it was the best single-lever action putting stroke he’d ever seen. To this day, I don’t know what that means. But when I grabbed that thing, I became a better putter. And I was back in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup and in the top 20 in the world.”

Still, the belly and long putters raise one question: If it’s so good, why isn’t everyone using it?

The PGA Tour’s most reliable statistic for putting is called “strokes gained.” The top 12 players on the list use a conventional putter. The more traditional statistic is average putts per round. None of the top 12 players on that list use a long putter, either.

Steve Stricker is No. 1 in “strokes gained” and No. 3 in putts per round.

So why isn’t he using one?

“I like how I putt. I like the conventional wisdom of the short putter. Is that saying it nicely?” Stricker said with a smile.

He did try one at the TPC Boston to see what it was like.

“It was a totally different feel,” he said. “I’m used to following through with my hands.”

Just then, Padraig Harrington walked by and caught the tail end of Stricker’s comments.

“Don’t tell me you’re talking about a long putter,” Harrington said. “The day Steve Stricker goes to a long putter, we’re all in trouble.”

Aaron Baddeley is another great putter. He stared blankly when asked why he isn’t using a belly putter, then understood the point of the question and said the same thing Stricker did.

He then was asked another question. The day pigs fly is when who uses a belly putter?

“Tiger Woods,” he said. “And Brad Faxon.”

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Sponsored: Callaway's 'Golf Lives: Home Course'

By Grill Room TeamOctober 15, 2018, 4:20 pm

In this original series, Callaway sets out to profile unique golf locations around the country based on their stories, communities and the characters that surround them. The golf cultures across the series are remarkably diverse, yet in all cases it's the course itself that unifies and ignites the passions of those who play.

“Golf Lives: Home Course” focuses on three distinct home courses across the country – one in D.C., one in Nebraska and one in Portland, Ore. All have very different golf cultures, but are connected by a deep love of the game.

Click here for a look at all three series segments, as well as past Golf Lives features.

And here’s a breakdown of the three courses in focus: 

FILM 1

Langston Golf Course (Washington, D.C.)

Opened in June 1939, Langston is steeped in a rich history. Known for its triumphant role in the desegregation of public golf, the course has been integral to the growth of the game’s popularity among African Americans. With its celebratory feel, Langston shows us golf is not unifies individuals, but generations. 


FILM 2

Edgefield Golf Course (Portland, Ore.)

The air is fresh, the beers are cold and the vibes are electric at Edgefield. You'd be hard pressed to find a more laid back, approachable and enjoyable environment for a round. Overlooking stunning panoramic views of northeast Portland, two par-3 pub courses (12 holes and 20 holes) wind through vineyards, thickets of blackberry bushes and a vintage distillery bar. All are welcome at Edgefield, especially those who have never swung a club. 


FILM 3

Wild Horse Golf Club (Gothenburg, Neb.)

In 1997, the locals and farmers living in the tight-knit town of Gothenburg decided to build a golf course. A bank loan, a couple of tractors, and a whole lotta sweat-equity later, their prairieland masterpiece is now considered one of the best in the country. Wild Horse is the soul of the community, providing unforgettable memories for all who play it.

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Pepperell likely sews up Masters invite via OWGR

By Will GrayOctober 15, 2018, 2:13 pm

Eddie Pepperell received a trophy for his win Sunday at the British Masters, but another prize will be coming in the mail at the end of the year.

Pepperell held on to win by two shots at rainy Walton Heath, giving him his second win of the year to go along with a pair of runner-ups. The Englishman started the year ranked No. 133 in the world and was as low as 513th in May 2017. But with the win, Pepperell jumped 17 spots to a career-best 33rd in the latest world rankings.

It means that Pepperell, who finished T-6 at The Open while fighting a hangover in the final round, is in line to make his Masters debut next spring, as the top 50 in the world rankings at the end of the calendar year become exempt into the season's first major.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


Another player now in the mix for that top-50 exemption is Emiliano Grillo, who went from 62nd to 49th with a T-2 finish at the PGA Tour's CIMB Classic. Grillo has played in two Masters but missed this year's event. Marc Leishman moved up eight spots to No. 16 with his win in Malaysia, while T-2s result moved Chesson Hadley from 75th to 60th and Bronson Burgoon from 162nd to 102nd.

There were no changes among the top 10 in the latest rankings, with Dustin Johnson still ahead of Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy. Francesco Molinari remains in sixth, with Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth rounding out the top 10.

Both Koepka and Thomas are in the field at this week's CJ Cup in South Korea, where they will have an opportunity to overtake Johnson for world No. 1.

With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods stayed at No. 13 for another week.

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USGA, R&A unveil new limits on green books

By Rex HoggardOctober 15, 2018, 1:53 pm

Following a six-week feedback period, the USGA and R&A unveiled a new interpretation of the Rules of Golf and the use of green-reading materials on Monday.

The interpretation limits the size and scale of putting green books and any electronic or digital materials that a player may use to assist with green reading.

“We’re thankful for everyone’s willingness to provide feedback as we worked through the process of identifying a clear interpretation that protects the essential skill of reading a green, while still allowing for information that helps golfers enjoy the game,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior managing director of governance.

Players will be allowed to continue to use green-reading books beginning in 2019, but the new interpretation will limit images of greens to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480), and books can be no larger than 4 1/4 inches by 7 inches (pocket-sized). The interpretation also bans the use of magnification devices beyond normal prescription glasses.

The USGA and R&A will allow for hand-drawn notes in green books as long as those notes are written by the player or their caddie. The rule makers also dropped a proposal that would have limited the minimum slope to four percent in green-reading material.

“These latest modifications provide very practical changes that make the interpretation easier to understand and apply in the field,” Pagel said.

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CIMB purse payout: Leishman earns $1.26 million

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 1:34 pm

Marc Leishman never let off the gas pedal and cruised to a five-stroke victory at the CIMB Classic. Here's how the purse was paid out at TPC Kuala Lumpur.

1 Marc Leishman -26 $1,260,000
T2 Emiliano Grillo -21 $522,667
T2 Chesson Hadley -21 $522,667
T2 Bronson Burgoon -21 $522,667
T5 Justin Thomas -20 $237,300
T5 Abraham Ancer -20 $237,300
T5 Charles Howell III -20 $237,300
T5 Louis Oosthuizen -20 $237,300
T5 Gary Woodland -20 $237,300
T10 Kevin Chappell -19 $175,000
T10 Si Woo Kim -19 $175,000
T10 Shubhankar Sharma -19 $175,000
T13 Kyle Stanley -18 $122,640
T13 Byeong Hun An -18 $122,640
T13 Paul Casey -18 $122,640
T13 J.B. Holmes -18 $122,640
T13 Stewart Cink -18 $122,640
T13 Austin Cook -18 $122,640
T19 Keegan Bradley -17 $89,320
T19 Kevin Na -17 $89,320
T19 Nick Watney -17 $89,320
T22 Keith Mitchell -16 $71,120
T22 John Catlin -16 $71,120
T22 Cameron Smith -16 $71,120
25 Xander Schauffele -15 $59,920
26 Joel Dahmen -14 $54,320
T27 Kevin Tway -13 $50,120
T27 Gaganjeet Bhullar -13 $50,120
T27 Scott Piercy -13 $50,120
T30 C.T. Pan -12 $43,820
T30 Thomas Pieters -12 $43,820
T30 Beau Hossler -12 $43,820
T33 Billy Horschel -11 $35,303
T33 Ryan Palmer -11 $35,303
T33 Ryan Armour -11 $35,303
T33 Kiradech Aphibarnrat -11 $35,303
T33 Danny Lee -11 $35,303
T33 Kelly Kraft -11 $35,303
T39 Brice Garnett -10 $27,720
T39 Jamie Lovemark -10 $27,720
T39 Brian Stuard -10 $27,720
T39 Jimmy Walker -10 $27,720
T43 Jason Dufner -9 $20,160
T43 Satoshi Kodaira -9 $20,160
T43 Chez Reavie -9 $20,160
T43 Justin Harding -9 $20,160
T43 Ernie Els -9 $20,160
T43 Jason Kokrak -9 $20,160
T43 Sam Ryder -9 $20,160
T50 Branden Grace -8 $15,365
T50 Sanghyun Park -8 $15,365
T50 Andrew Putnam -8 $15,365
T50 Rafael Cabrera Bello -8 $15,365
T54 Ted Potter Jr. -7 $14,280
T54 Ben Leong -7 $14,280
T54 Brendan Steele -7 $14,280
T54 Sihwan Kim -7 $14,280
T54 Troy Merritt -7 $14,280
T59 Whee Kim -6 $13,720
T59 Davis Love III -6 $13,720
T59 James Hahn -6 $13,720
62 Michael Kim -5 $13,440
T63 Pat Perez -4 $13,160
T63 Tom Hoge -4 $13,160
T63 Anirban Lahiri -4 $13,160
T66 Scott Vincent -3 $12,740
T66 Brandt Snedeker -3 $12,740
T66 Ryan Moore -3 $12,740
T69 Peter Uihlein -2 $12,390
T69 Brian Gay -2 $12,390
71 Minchel Choi -1 $12,180
T72 J.J. Spaun E $11,970
T72 Berry Henson E $11,970
74 Ollie Schniederjans 3 $11,760
T75 Scott Stallings 5 $11,480
T75 Jon Curran 5 $11,480
T75 Rahil Gangjee 5 $11,480
78 Leun-Kwang Kim 13 $11,200