How it all began: A history of the long putter

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 1, 2013, 7:40 pm

While the debate over anchoring putters may appear relatively new, the history of the long putter dates back several decades. Here are some highlights and notable moments in the history of one of golf's most interesting pieces of equipment.

1924: Leo Diegel develops a putting stance which involves a bent-over, elbows-out position with the butt of the putter at his belly button. Competitors called the move 'Diegeling.'

1961: The first patent for a belly putter is submitted by Richard Parmley. It was approved in 1965.

1966: Phil Rodgers wins twice on the PGA Tour with a 39.5-inch belly putter, using a technique suggested to him by Paul Runyan. According to the Associated Press, 'Rodgers shoves the handle of his putter against his stomach and spreads his hands apart before taking his stroke.'

1968: The U.S. Golf Association bans croquet-style putting, utilized notably at the time by Sam Snead. USGA executive Joe Dey told Sports Illustrated, 'We made the decision with great reluctance ... but we felt it was the only way to eliminate the unconventional styles that have developed in putting. The game of golf was becoming bizarre. It was some other game, part croquet, part shuffleboard.'

1983: Battling the yips and bad knees, Champions Tour player Charlie Owens begins using a 51-inch putter that he anchored to his sternum. He went on to win twice in 1986 using the putter, which he nicknamed 'Slim Jim.'

1987: Johnny Miller wins the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am using a 46-inch long putter, which he gripped normally but braced against his left arm.

July 1989: Orville Moody wins the U.S. Senior Open using a long putter. Previously one of the worst putters on the Champions Tour, Moody became one of the best almost immediately after switching to the long putter, sparking rumors the club may be banned.

August 1989: After nearly two months of debate, the USGA and R&A announce that long putters will continue to be permitted under the Rules of Golf. At the time, USGA executive director David Fay explained, 'Putting is a very individualized art form. To inhibit a golfer's individual style would take some of the fun out of the game.'

1991: Rocco Mediate wins the Doral Open, becoming the first player to win a PGA Tour event using a putter anchored to his sternum.

2000: Paul Azinger earns his first PGA Tour win in over six years, using a belly putter to capture the Sony Open in Hawaii. 'I was instantly better,' said Azinger, who used the club to make the next U.S. Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams.

2003: Eight PGA Tour events are won by players using long putters, including four by Vijay Singh. 'This is like cheating,' said Steve Flesch after winning the Zurich Classic with an anchored putter. Later in the year, the USGA and R&A announce a maximum length of 48 inches on all clubs – except the putter.

2004: Vijay Singh wins nine times on the PGA Tour while switching between putters – six times with a standard putter, three times with a belly putter. Inspired by Singh, 24-year-old Trevor Immelman wins on the European Tour with a belly putter, which he had been using for only two weeks.

2007: After putting a belly putter in his bag just one week earlier, Sergio Garcia misses a 6-foot putt on the 72nd hole to win the British Open at Carnoustie. He would lose in a playoff to Padraig Harrington.

2009: Angel Cabrera wins The Masters with a 39-inch putter. Although longer than the standard putter, Cabrera uses it conventionally and does not anchor the putter to his body.

April 2011: USGA executive director Mike Davis appears on 'Morning Drive' to discuss a possible ban of the anchored putter: 'We don't see this as a big trend. It's not as if all the junior golfers out there are doing this. No one's even won a major using one of these things anchored to themselves. So we don't see this as something that is really detrimental to the game.'

August 2011: Keegan Bradley wins the PGA Championship, becoming the first player to win a major while anchoring a putter to his body. Later that month, Davis expands on his earlier comments: 'To date there's no evidence they are giving anybody an undue advantage. But could we become concerned some day? The answer is, yes.'

September 2011: Bill Haas uses a belly putter to win the Tour Championship – the fifth win by an anchored putter in seven weeks on the PGA Tour. In total, seven different players win on Tour using an anchored putter in 2011.

February 2012: At the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Tiger Woods states that he is against the idea of anchoring a putter to one's body, adding that he feels the putter should be equal to or shorter than the shortest club in the golf bag.

May 2012: Matt Kuchar wins The Players with a long putter braced against his forearm.

June 2012: Webb Simpson becomes the second player to win a major using a belly putter, capturing the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club.

July 2012: Ernie Els wins the British Open using a belly putter, holing a 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole. Runner-up Adam Scott, using a long putter anchored to his sternum, misses a 6-foot putt to tie Els on the final hole. More than 27% of the field (43 of 156 players) use a long or belly putter.

November 2012: At age 14, Tianlang Guan wins the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship with a belly putter, earning an invitation to the Masters in 2013, when he will become the youngest-ever competitor in the event's history.

Nov. 28, 2012: The USGA and R&A announce a proposal to ban anchored strokes, beginning Jan. 1, 2016.

Feb. 24, 2013: Commissioner Tim Finchem announces the PGA Tour's opposition to the proposed anchoring ban, saying that it is 'not in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour.'

April 14, 2013: Using a broom-handle putter, Adam Scott prevailed in a playoff at the Masters to become the fourth player in the last six majors to win while using an anchored stroke.

May 21, 2013: After a 90-day comment period, the governing bodies announce that Rule 14-1b will be enacted on Jan. 1, 2016, when the next edition of the Rules of Golf is published.

June 29, 2013: PGA of America, which had staunchly opposed Rule 14-1b, announced that it would follow the PGA Tour’s lead on the anchoring ban. 

July 1, 2013: The PGA Tour reverses course and announces that it will adopt Rule 14-1b and ban anchoring at its events, beginning on Jan. 1, 2016.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

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“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

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The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

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It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

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Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”