Adam Scott’s Australian lap of honour with the Masters Green Jacket continues when he lines up to defend his Australian Masters title at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, although for many observers there is a lingering doubt over the Australian.
A significant number of US commentators, as well as World No.1 Tiger Woods, believe Scott’s improved performances, especially in major championships during the past two years, can be attributed only to the fact that he is using an anchored putting stroke with a long ‘broomstick’ putter.
The results to support their argument appear to speak for themselves. Since switching to long putter at the start of 2011, Scott has finished inside the top 15 at nine of the 12 majors in that time, including winning the Masters and runner-up finishes at the 2011 Masters and 2012 Open Championship.
The World No.2 will start the short-priced favourite at Royal Melbourne to capture his second tournament victory in as many weeks after his scintillating display in winning the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines. His four-stroke victory on the Gold Coast was “the icing on the cake” to a career-best season, according to Scott.
He now has a time to make adjustments and Adam is good enough to do that.
With his confidence at an all time high, the 33-year-old has already turned his attention to becoming the first player since Robert Allenby 2005 to win the Australian ‘Triple Crown’ – the PGA, Masters and Open – in the same season. He also hopes to throw in a victorious World Cup of Golf campaign. “That would be an incredible way to end the year,” Scott says.
But with the anchored putting stroke to be banned in January 2016, the questions now beckon: Is Adam Scott on borrowed time to win as many tournaments as he can before the ban is enforced, or will his successes continue?
A long-time advocate for the banning of long putters, Greg Norman, actually endorsed Scott’s decision to change to the long putter two years ago, but says the impending ban is the right move for golf.
“I have spoken out about the long putter since the mid-1980s,” Norman said. “I am a big believer that the biggest parts of the game especially under the gun is your nerves and how your mind, your brain, your synapses connect electrically with your muscles.
“Sometime people have a tendency for a little bit of a twitch or their muscles tighten up. Anchoring a putter takes away that element of the game. How you control the body controls the golf swing, anchoring the putter halts that process and makes it easier.”
But the former World No.1 says Scott will be able to adjust to using a short putter again and will continue to be successful.
“Sometimes your mind has the ability of saying ‘I have a way of escaping something and I am going to give myself that ease of moving out without having to focus and be determined on how to improve an element of my game’,” Norman said.
“For Adam that is going back to the short putter or a variation of what the rule is now going to be to learn to adapt. That’s what golf is all about, learning to adapt to conditions week in and week out.
“He now has a time to make adjustments and Adam is good enough to do that.”
Former Tour professional Mike Clayton says Scott’s use of the long putter has hardly been a guarantee for him to make more putts.
“The missed putts at the end of the final round at Lytham in 2012 showed it (the long putter) was far from foolproof,” he said. “We’ll never know, but he might have made some of those putts with a conventional putter.”
While there was a perception Scott was a poor putter with the short conventional putter, statistics tell a different story. He actually has a better record with a short putter.
To prove the point, one only needs to examine his putting statistics for 2004, when he won the unofficial ‘fifth major’, The Players Championship, and his putting numbers for this year.
His putting in 2004 was good enough to be ranked in the top-50 on Tour in every distance category. He even led the Tour in the important Strokes Gained Putting category. By comparison he was 102nd on Tour in the same category in 2013.
The only distance category where he appears to be better with the anchored stroke is between 15 and 20 feet, where he makes 26.19 percent of putts, ranking 5th on Tour. But this is only two percent higher than his stat back in ’04.
His reason for adopting the long putter, beyond issues with confidence, was his putting from inside 10 feet. But during the past two years his numbers for putts between five and 10 feet have not changed. His improvement from inside five feet of the hole has been marginal.
In the meantime, Scott will continue to use the anchored broomstick as he says: “I don’t have a back-up plan.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and deal with it then,” he said. “I don’t think there will be anything much for me to change. If I have to separate the putter a millimetre from my chest, then I’ll do that.”
That said, he may even adopt a conventional putter again. “I don’t believe it would be a hard thing for me to go back to the short putter,” Scott said. “I could do it, and I think I would putt better than I did in the two years before I went to the long putter. The long putter has taught me how to putt again.”
While he says the long putter has been more consistent for him, the numbers suggest when the ban comes into force he will lose nothing, whatever method or putter he chooses to use.
Conventional putter: This is the traditional length putter, generally between 33 and 35 inches, that has traditionally been used by players throughout the history of the game. Some of the world’s best putters – including Greg Norman, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus – use this length putter.
Belly putter: As the name suggests, this longer putter is custom-fitted to length so the butt end of the grip sits snugly into the stomach of the user. It is the choice of putter used by recent major winners including Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els, who converted to the ‘belly’ in 2011 after a putting slump with the conventional putter.
Long ‘broomstick’ putter: The long putter has been in the game since the late 1960s but more players, like Sam Torrance and Peter Senior, started using it in the late ‘80s as a way of staying in the game after developing the putting ‘yips’ with the short putter. Users of the long putter anchor the butt of the grip against their sternum or nestle it against the chin.
Anchored putting stroke: The anchored putting stroke, which will be banned from January 1, 2016, sees the end of the putter held against a part of the body. The rule has been introduced so it reads “in making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either ‘directly’ or by use of an ‘anchor point’, therefore creating a free swinging putting stroke.