People wonder why Tiger Woods doesn't spout off about the hot issues of the day. Look at Ernie Els.
Els badmouths Trevor Immelman's use of a long putter after Immelman winstheTournament Players Championship of Europe, and suddenly it's a ragingtopicagain. That's the nature of golf. Most big-name golfers say little of substance because, God forbid, they might offend sponsors and/or equipment manufacturers.
When they do speak out, tsunamis ripple through the golf world. These guys are worse than Wall Street investors.
So now it's long putters, belly putters, stomach strokers, call them what you will.
Haven't we been through this before? Remember Rocco Mediate? Remember Bernard Langer?
Of course long putters should be banned from tournament play. They remove the yips from the putting equation. You take the choke out of the game, and what you're left with is Greg Norman.
Skill is more than just physical. It also involves mental strength, the ability to overcome innermost doubt and fear. Free throws in basketball should be easy, but put the NBA championship on the line with no time ontheclock, and suddenly the hoop looks a mile away.
One of the most perverse thrills in spectator sports is watching a man come apart on the golf course. And nowhere does he come apart more completely and in a more public way than on the green.
The battle of professional nerves is there for our viewing pleasure. It can help the players, too, in a roundabout sort of way. Norman attracted legions of fans after his collapse in the 1996 Masters. Mortals sympathize with human frailty.
Paul Runyan started the whole thing with the long putters. In the 1936 Belmont Open in Boston, with the wind howling, Runyan stuck the end of his putter into his waist, took a wide stance and slid his hand down the shaft of his putter, all for stability.
It worked great for short putts, but he lost control on longer ones. So a few years later he got a longer putter. Problem solved.
"An advantage I hadn't expected is that this system minimizes the adverse effect of nervous tension," Runyan wrote in an article for GolfDigest.
Els was a little less diplomatic, saying golfers who cannot control the irnerves should join the Prozac Nation.
There are actually two kinds of long putters. Belly putters are around 45 inches long, 10 inches longer than most putters. The butt end rests on -orin, in the case of your more portly golfers - the belly. The belly acts as a sort of fulcrum, making the stroke less prone to error due to nerves.
The belly putting golfer can stand in more of an upright position and thus have a better line of sight to the hole. Most belly putters place their bottom hand much lower than the upper hand, for more control.
True long putters are in the 50-inch range. Langer uses one in an effort to tone down his much-publicized and embarrassing yips. The principle is the same, except the sternum acts as the fulcrum. A radical version has the player resting the butt of the putter on his chin.
Notables using long putters include Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie and Paul Azinger.
Bruce Lietzke used a long putter with success on the Senior Tour, and many hoped it would stay there.
Until Els gave his proclamation, golf's governing bodies showed little inclination to deal with long putters. Even now, The Royal and Ancient has no immediate plans to ban them, and neither apparently does the USGA.
Conventional putting gurus have mostly bad things to say about them, which is no surprise considering they have a vested interest in sticking with the standard method.
The United Kingdom's Andrew Rogers, for example, said the basic premise is faulty.
"Long putters are now seen as the standard cure for the yips," Rogers told Travelgolf.com. "This is an illusion. "
Rogers said only steely nerves can overcome nerves, not a longer stick.
"The bottom line is that players who use long putters will never be quite as consistent with them as they would be if they learned to use a normal putter properly," he said. "So in the long run they are no threat to other players who use normal putters."
I'm not saying all new, radical equipment should be banned. Metal woods were allowed, as were cavity back irons. But, those improvements were different; they didn't tinker with golf's basic strokes.
Long putters should be banned because they employ a stroke that isn't quite golf. Golfers are supposed to stroke it, not push it, like they're lawn bowling.
What's next? Where does it end? Why not just drop down on all fours and use a cue stick?
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!