Tag:belly putter
Posted on: February 8, 2012 2:56 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 4:50 pm

Harrington calls belly rule change 'inevitable'

By Steve Elling 

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- A day after Tiger Woods all but said that the belly putter should be ruled illegal, three-time major winner Padraig Harrington made a bold prediction.

"Yes, it's inevitable it's going to get changed," he said Wednesday.

Harrington is an ambassador for the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, and whether he's speaking with any insider information here is a bit unclear, but the sentiment seems to be growing that the long putters need to be re-examined.

With a growing number of players using the belly model, and players like Adam Scott resurrecting his career with the broom model, traditionalists like Woods have raised the question of whether the clubs should be banned.

Harrington, playing this week at Pebble Beach, said that if the clubs had recently appeared out of thin air, it's highly unlikely they would have ever been permitted.

"I think at the end of the day, if we started fresh tomorrow and somebody tried to get the belly putter passed, not a chance," he said.

The game's two governing bodies, the USGA and R&A, have indicated they will take a look at the long-putter issue, though banning a device that's been around for a quarter-century sounds like a sticky situation.

Woods advocated a theoretical plan wherein the putter could not be longer than the shortest club in the bag, which would usually be a sand wedge. He envisioned putters being measured for length by comparing them to wedges on the first tee to ensure accordance, and said he had discussed the possible wording of a rule change with Peter Dawson of the R&A on several occasions.

"I definitely hear  and this is not true by connection with the R&A but just true in golf -- there's more players, there's more officials focusing on the belly putter," Harrington said.

Last year, for the first time, a major championship was won by a player using the belly putter.

Woods said Tuesday: "I've never been a fan of it. I believe it's the art of controlling the body and club and swinging the pendulum motion. I believe that's how it should be played. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to that."

With 17 majors between Woods and Harrington, not to mention their influence in other areas, that's some pretty heavy artillery on the anti-belly side of the fence.

Posted on: February 7, 2012 2:22 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 4:51 pm

Woods throws weight behind bumping belly

By Steve Elling 

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Add Tiger Woods to the list of players who believe that the belly putter should fast go belly-up.

In fact, the former world No. 1 said Tuesday that he has been agitating for years with one of the game's global rulemakers, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, on the possible language relating to how a rule regarding maximum putter length would be worded.

At the seaside Pebble Beach Golf Links, Woods said he's been preaching anchors aweigh to the broom and belly models for years. The former world No. 1 said he's conversed with the R&A's chief executive, Peter Dawson, about perhaps capping the length so that putters would be the same length as a sand wedge.

The USGA indicated over the weekend at its annual meeting that it, along with the R&A, was revisiting the topic of whether belly putter and long putters, which have become so popular it's hard to track whose using them on tour, should be reigned in.

"I've never been a fan if it," Woods said at Pebble Beach. "I believe it's the art of controlling the body and club and swinging the pendulum motion. I believe that's how it should be played. I'm traditionalist when it comes to that."

Purity has been taking a beating on the putting greens of late. The rulemakers years ago capped the maximum length of a driver at 48 inches, but the belly and broom models have been around so long, it's unofficially been sanctioned as a ship that has too long ago sailed.

The belly model became so popular last year, players were schooling their peers on the clubs' nuances on putting greens toward the end of the season. Keegan Bradley, the reigning rookie of the year, became the first player to win a major using the belly model.

Even Phil Mickelson tried one. Many players philosophically object to using putters that are anchored to the body in any fashion, as the broom and belly putter are, in some fashion. Others, like Ernie Els and Mickelson, say that as long as it's not against the rules, they'll try almost anything.

"I've talked to Peter about this, Peter Dawson, for a number of years and gone back and forth of how we could word it," Woods said. "My idea was to have it so that the putter would be equal to or less than the shortest club in your bag. I think with that we'd be able to get away from any type of belly anchoring. 

"You can still anchor the putter like Bernhard Langer did, against the arm. But that's still the art of swinging the club, too, at the same time."

It might be tempting to blow off Woods' remarks, but when he speaks, things tend to happen. By way of example, when Woods said he was in favor of drug testing, the PGA Tour stopped dragging its feet and implemented a new screening system within months. He asked for a shorter season in 2005, and got it when the FedEx Cup series was adopted soon thereafter.

"I think you can get away from the belly or the long putter by that type of wording, whether or not they do it or not," Woods said. "Peter's looked into it for a number of years, trying to get it to work, and you [would] actually measure everybody's sand wedge and putter before you go out and play."

On the Pebble putting green, as his peers learned that Woods had thrown his weight behind a possible rule change, those who use the long sticks cringed.

"Great," said Robert Garrigus, who switched to a belly model this year and nearly won an event last month. "That means it'll probably happen."

When it was pointed out that it can take months or years for rule changes to be implemented, Brendan Steele was left hoping for a different ourcome.

"I've heard that they might grandfather-in all the guys who are already using them," said Steele, who uses a belly model and won last year as a rookie. "I'd be super-stoked if they let me use it and told everybody else that they couldn't."

Category: Golf
Posted on: September 4, 2011 12:42 pm

Mickelson torches Boston, no thanks to new putter

NORTON, Mass. -- Rest assured, Phil Mickelson's latest experimental toy had little to do with his result Sunday morning at TPC Boston.

Mickelson again had a new belly putter in the bag when he matched the low round of the week at the Deutsche Bank Championship, but it contributed almost nothing to do with his 8-under 63, which tied his best score of the season.

In fact, he sounds less committed than at any point since he added to his arsenal earlier this week as a means of fixing his maddeningly unpredictable putting stroke.

"It's day to day," he said of the controversial move to a belly putter. "I don’t know whether I’ll use it tomorrow. It's got some merits to it ... it takes some adjustment."

The other 13 clubs were certainly well calibrated in the third round at TPC Boston. After admittedly sloughing off practicing his long game to try to get the nuances of the belly putter figured out, Mickelson called swing coach Butch Harmon on Saturday night and made a few adjustments.

Outside of the first 10 holes in the final round of the British Open in July, Mickelson hadn’t played a better stretch all year, including his third-round 63 in Houston, site of his only victory this year.

After making the cut on the number and starting the day 11 shots behind a trio of co-leaders, Mickelson birdied three of the first four holes, then birdied the first two on the back nine. After a poor drive into the deep rough on the 12th, he hacked out a 7-iron from 173 yards that landed six feet from the hole and dived in for an eagle.

At that point, at 7 under through 12, thoughts of a 59 crossed his mind.

"Absolutely, I did," he said. "Had I made a couple of more putts thereafter, I might have had a chance."

Likewise for if he'd converted anything before the eagle, too. For the day, the longest putt he made was from 11 feet and he missed six putts from 16 feet or closer to the cup.

Mickelson was noncommittal about whether he'll stick with the belly model going forward, because he's having a hard time judging the speed of the ball as it comes off the clubface, a common complaint of many belly users.

"It's something I need to spend a little more time on in the offseason," he said.

But the rest of his game was firing at full-bore capacity, which hasn’t happened often over the past two years, when Mickelson has been admittedly looking for answers. he has five top-five finishes this season, the fewest in 14 years.

"I've been struggling, obviously," he said. "I've been struggling, a lot. Hopefully this gives me some momentum for the rest of the FedEx Cup.

"Today I hit it as well as I have in a long time."

In an interesting statistical footnote, the last six times Mickelson has shot 63, he's ultimately won the tournament. The last time he posted that score and didn’t win was at the Bob Hope Classic in 2003, when he finished T6.

He likely will require another 63, or better, to have a prayer at winning the title in Boston for the second time. Tied for last among those who made the cut, Mickelson played in the fourth group off the tee Sunday, and by the time he finished had climbed to T6, but it was two hours before the leaders began play.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 5:31 pm

Mickelson goes with gut instincts, shoots 70

NORTON, Mass. -- Keegan Bradley doesn't look like the pied piper.

But in a reverse twist, the PGA Tour rookie is ... corrupting his elders, who are following him in famous droves.

Two of the most decorated stars in the game, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson, credited the reigning PGA Championship winner with helping them understand the tricky subtleties of the belly putter, which Mickelson put in his bag for the first time Friday at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

"I think that any way Phil putts, he'd make anything," Bradley said Friday. "But it's really an honor to have Phil talk to me about anything in terms of the game. I even hesitate saying anything to him because he's one of my heroes."

Even heroes take an occasional fall.

Lefty needed a bandage for his ailing putting stroke, and after using the longer belly model intermittently during his pro-am on Thursday, Mickelson left his short putter in the locker room and went with the controversial belly at TPC Boston, where he finished with a 1-under 71.

He certainly had moments of both competence and confidence, mixed with some deserved consternation.

Mickelson birdied the first two holes from just beyond 8 feet, and made a couple of par-saving putts from 5 and 6 feet on the back nine. Yet he also missed birdie attempts from 10 and 11 feet later in the round, which included a three-putt from the fringe on the third hole.

He had 29 putts in all, which put him in the middle of the 98-player pack at T52 when he finished, but indicated it's going to remain in the bag -- at least for now.

"I got off to a great start with it," he said. "I though it went welll and I feel that I probably putted better with that putter than I would be with the short putter, so I will end up using it for the rest of the tournament, I would anticipate.

"I don't know if it is a short-term or long-term thing, but it looks pretty good. I feel pretty good with it. I felt like I wa starting them on line and I've got to get comfortable with the speed and so forth, which is a little different, but ... right now it feels pretty good."

So, while the reviews were rather tempered, some think the belly might be just the tonic for Lefty's increasingly twitchy touch. Longtime tour swing coach and television analyst Peter Kostis, watching the Deutsche telecast from home, called the belly model "perfect" for Mickelson's putting stroke.

With the butt of the club anchored in his abdomen, Mickelson can't extend or shorten his arms at the elbows on the backswing or after impact. The club swings like a perfect pendulum, like a weight attached to the end of a string.

"That's what's been missing in his stroke, in my opinion," Kostis said.

Mickelson also spent time with his new golf psychologist, Julie Elion, on the putting green before the round, so he is clearly looking for answers to questions. Since winning the Masters last year, he has one victory in the ensuing 17 months.

Mickelson had a difficult time explaining how, or if, the belly is better suited to his stroke. It's only been in the bag for a matter of hours.

"I honestly don't know, I haven't spent enough time with it," he said. "The guys who have used it for a long time, Brendan Steele, Keegan Bradley has putted very well with it, Martin Laird, Webb Simpson, whose guys know a lot more about it, the intricacies of it, but it felt good. I enjoyed it. I had fun today."

Mickelson said there was some awkwardness, since he has putted with his hands ahead slightly ahead of the ball at address and impact for most of his career.

"You can't forward press," he said. "It just passes my hands, so it's a different stroke, so that's probably why it's a little bit more awkward at first for me because I am used to keeping the hands ahead and this time the club is passing my hands."

The ranks of the belly converts continue to swell. One group ahead of Mickelson, potential Presidents Cup player Bill Haas used a belly putter for the third tournament of his career, and second in succession.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: September 2, 2011 12:06 pm

Start bellyaching: Mickelson uses long putter

NORTON, Mass. -- Phil Mickelson didn't go long in the batting cage on Thursday night at Fenway Park.

But he's going long with his putter at TPC Boston.

Mickelson left his regular-length putter in his locker at the Deutsche Bank Championship on Friday, and walked off for his first-round tee times armed with a trendy, controversial belly putter instead.

"The short one's not coming out," he said, motioning toward the locker room.

As is his pre-round pattern, Mickelson spent several minutes practicing on the greens, this time with his new sports psuchologist, Julie Elion watching close by. He chatted with several other pros on the green about his new putter, which is anchored lightly in hs abdomen, including Brendan Steele, a frequent playing partner in practice rounds who also uses a belly model.

The biggest laugh came when Robert Garrigus showed Mickelson his putter, which measures about 30 inches and is the shortest on the PGA Tour. It was about half as long as Mickelson's model.

Mickelson ranks T45 in total putting this season and has missed a notable number of short ones inside three feet, which is where belly and broom models have been known to help other players.

As for his stint in the batting cages Thursday night before the Red Sox game against the Yankees, Mickelson didn't leave the yard.

"I thought I could get one out, but I couldn't quite," he laughed.

Mickelson threw out the ceremonial first pitch, firing a strike to pitcher Tim Wakefield behind the plate.

"Fastball," Mickelson said.

Mickelson, who has one win this season, tees off at 12:28 p.m. ET with Gary Woodland and Jonathan Byrd.

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