News & Opinion

Scott hopes to turn back clock with long putter

When Adam Scott opens the 2018 season, he will have an old friend in hand: the long putter. 

Scott is coming off a year in which he experienced mixed results. He and wife Marie welcomed their second child, Byron, but Scott went winless for the year, posting only four top-10 results in 19 starts worldwide as he commuted from Australia to the U.S. during the pregnancy.

“It's been a fantastic year for me,” Scott told Australian media during the recent Australian PGA, in which he missed his fourth cut of 2017. “A very exciting last few months with my family and having a new baby and all the good things that come with that. I guess that's been the focus of the year for me, really. It was a lot of planning around that.”

Against that backdrop, Scott fell from No. 7 in the Official World Golf Ranking to start the year to 31st today. He wants to regain the form that produced 13 victories on the PGA Tour, highlighted by the 2013 Masters title, and seven in Europe.

Much of Scott’s success, including that career-defining green jacket, came via the anchored putting stroke, which was banned in 2016. However, Scott has taken note of Bernhard Langer and Scott McCarron, who ranked 1-2, respectively, in victories and earnings on the Champions Tour during the past year. Both used long putters and unanchored strokes, albeit not without controversy (“A rule that’s adrift: Overturn anchoring ban,” July 10, http://bit.ly/2t6arV6).

Many golf observers think that Rule 14-1b, which banned the anchored stroke, might not have happened if not for Scott, Webb Simpson, Ernie Els and Keegan Bradley. They won four of six major championships during a period from late 2011 to early ’13, calling attention to the unorthodox method.

Scott’s father, Phil, an Australian PGA member, expressed optimism that his son can regain the winning form that led to a No. 1 world ranking in 2014. As recently as early 2016, Scott won in consecutive weeks on the Florida Swing.

“Hopefully, 2018 can see him devote the time required to get back to the top levels,” Phil Scott told Morning Read. “I’m confident he will.”

Adam Scott’s interest in a long putter using a non-anchored stroke came after Phil Scott read about the exceptional 2017 putting statistics compiled by Langer and McCarron. The father speculated that Langer and McCarron might have inadvertently stumbled onto the best way to putt, which led the Scotts to revisit the use of a “floating pole,” their description of this new method.  

“As this went, I mentioned all that to Adam and we had a general chat about why he had never made that seemingly slight alteration when the anchor ban came into force,” Phil Scott said. “The next thing I knew, he was in our little workshop changing the length and weight of a couple of putters and giving it a go.”

According to the elder Scott, Langer and McCarron exhibit two distinctly different styles for using the long putter. Essentially, they are the same styles that the players used before the anchor ban. Langer putts very much with a simple right-hand push/pull technique. McCarron uses a much more prevalent shoulder-rock action, with the left arm fixed and the elbow pointing toward the target. The method mirrors Scott’s stroke with the long putter.

“I think the McCarron method is more athletic, perhaps requiring more postural form,” Phil Scott said. “The Langer style is quite loose and relaxed, which is perhaps easier for more senior players. Both styles effectively create the ‘anchor’ by pushing down with the left thumb on top of the grip.”

According to Australian media, Adam Scott intends to begin his 2018 season in February, at an undisclosed stop on the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing.

The Scotts have determined that players who use the shoulder-rock method need to make sure that the shoulder movement does not become too steep. This creates an arch that is too vertical, which causes the ball to leave the putter face with side or back spin.

“Frankly, I think it’s dead easy,” Phil Scott said. “Like any other method, it requires some experimentation and practice to become proficient, but for someone ‘yipping it,’ it would have a huge upside either way, I would think.

“I’m hoping Adam sticks with it and just gets away from thinking too much about putting. And I still think the anchor ban in place is as silly a rule change as could be. You are allowed to clamp the putter to the forearm? Daft…”

Spoken like a true father.

Ted Bishop, who owns and operates The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Ind., and is the author of “Unfriended,” was president of the PGA of America in 2013-14. Email: tedbishop38pga@aol.com; Twitter: @tedbishop38pga