UNIVERSITY PLACE, Washington (Aug. 28, 2010) -- First off, let me get a disclaimer out of the way. I putt with a long putter. And I think more people should.
As far as I know, nobody has won a major using the "broomstick" or whatever nickname you want to call it. And, quite frankly, I'm well aware that there are many traditionalists that think that "anchoring" the putter is something that the USGA shouldn't have allowed when the phenomenon took off with money machines like Bruce Lietzke. (Remember, the banana in the bag guy who never practiced?)
I'm not sure what David Chung or Jed Dirksen were doing to warrant their switch to long putters. But I do know this. Everyone will tell you the game, especially putting, is 90% mental, but don't believe it for a minute.
No doubt, as Ben Hogan said "The game is in the dirt." There are players that are born with talent, but they have to beat thousands of balls, or stroke thousands of putts, to make it automatic.
But let's face it, if golf was "hours in equals money earned," than somebody you've never heard of would be the leading money winner of all time.
|David Chung at the US Amateur - even if you don't putt well with it the long putter makes a heck of a walking stick (USGA photo)
The fact is, there are players that swing it like Sam Snead or Ben Hogan, and these same players can hit blades, and probably still carry a 3 iron while the rest of us use hybrids.
There are also plenty of players (young and old) that stroke the putter with a shoulder rock and stability that is fulcrum-like in its precision and balance.
Most of us don't have those silky smooth strokes.
Peter Uihlein, the US Amateur Champion and top ranked amateur in the world, does. When he lays his eyes on the line and gets planted over the ball, there is no motion in his lower body or head, and a Tiger Woods-style delay keeps him down well after the ball starts rolling to the hole. I would bet he has grooved this for years by listening for the sound of the ball dropping.
Now look at David Chung, two-putting from all over the place in his awesome semi-final win against a surging Byeong-Hun An, and making his share of birdie putts as well. It's the long two putts, often from the fringe, that got him to the finals at the US Amateur (like the last hole in his match against Byeong-Hun An) and he developed an uncanny sense of speed on Chambers Bay's treacherous greens. Earlier this summer, Chung won the prestigious Porter Cup and Western Amateur back-to-back.
It's possible he is the only player to ever win those events with a long stick. (I'll get back to you on that.)
By the way, Chung wasn't the only player to go a long way with the long stick at the US Amateur - Jed Dirksen of Iowa, who lost in twenty holes in his quarterfinal match against Patrick Cantlay, was also using a long putter, anchored even higher than Chung's. And he made some bombs, despite letting the match get away.
Not everyone is going to win a tournament their second time out with the long putter like David Chung did last year after his Stanford Coach, Conrad Ray, gave him an ultimatum to try it. He's obviously got tons of talent and the switch freed him up from a mental block. For me, it was a 6-12 month learning curve, and believe me, I don't stroke it like David Chung. But I roll it more consistently on the long ones, make my share of mid length putts, and generally don't "sweat" putting the way I used to.
It was really fun trying and learning something different.
I see a number of players in amateur events with the claw grip, the jumbo grip, left hand low, and extra large heads. If these are working well for you than by all means, stick with them! But if you're still struggling, and the ball seems to be bouncing off of the clubface or you just can't make consistently solid contact, seek out someone who uses or teaches the long putter and give it a try, for at least a few months. You'll be surprised how it helps you with the long two putts just as much as it does the short ones.
And hey, you can always go back.