Bernhard Langer’s short retort on long putter debate: try asking me
IF THE golfing authorities are going to show the stomach required to ban belly putters, it’s puzzling why Peter Dawson, the R&A’s chief executive, didn’t grasp a golden opportunity this week to get the views of the man who has arguably benefitted more than anyone since the advent of long putters.
Even Bernhard Langer, who has wielded his broom-handled model to devastating effect for the past 14 years after being hit with the yips, seemed surprised the topic didn’t come up when the pair played together in the Senior Open Championship pro-am on Tuesday – the day after Dawson had confirmed long putters were being looked into by both his organisation and the USGA, the game’s ruling body on the other side of the Atlantic.
After producing the sort of masterclass that has been his trademark during a near 40-year career to set the pace in the £2 million Rolex-presented event in Ayrshire with a flawless six-under-par 64 – he leads by one from eight-time Champions Tour winner Mark McNulty – Langer launched a strong defence of long putters.
It included him revealing that his biggest bugbear with golf’s current hot topic – three of the last four majors have been won by players using belly putters, including newly crowned Open champion Ernie Els – is that, while players who still use conventional putters are being asked for their views, no-one, including Dawson, has ever sought his opinion.
“The long putter has been out for 30-35 years now, so it’s a little surprising that they are trying to get rid of something that’s been around for so long and used by a number of people,” said Langer after getting off to a flying start in an event he won for the first time at Carnoustie two years ago.
“If it was an unfair advantage, why didn’t they ban it immediately or within a year or two when they saw the first few guys? That’s certainly one thing that bothers me. I also find it interesting that if the long putter is so easy to use, why doesn’t everybody use it?”
In yesterday’s first round, a total of 38 players – a quarter of the field – had either long or mid-sized putters in their bags. That was the same percentage at Royal Lytham, where a number of competitors, including three-time major champion Padraig Harrington and world No 1 Luke Donald, said they’d like to see long putters being outlawed.
As well as being irked by that, Langer is also annoyed that the debate about long putters has intensified since Keegan Bradley became the first player to use one to win a major, when he landed the USPGA Championship just under a year ago.
“So it was OK to use long putters until somebody won a major and then it’s not OK?” he asked. “I don’t agree with that argument whatsoever, sorry. There were guys using it 25-30 years ago, but didn’t win a major. Now, because two or three guys have won a major, it’s illegal. That doesn’t make sense.
“You read all of these quotes from Gary Player or Luke Donald or whoever else, all of the guys who use the short putter. Why don’t they ask some of us and quote us, too, just to make it fair. I even played with Peter Dawson in the pro-am two days ago and he didn’t bring it up.”
On a day that showcased Turnberry in all its splendour, Langer was as meticulous as ever in a round that he illuminated with six birdies. Having once asked playing partner Colin Montgomerie in a Ryder Cup match if he wanted the yardage from the front or back of a sprinkler head, it was no surprise to hear the 54-year-old German was totally unfazed when he drove into a bunker at the last.
“I had checked that fairway bunker in practice and that’s maybe the only one on the whole course where you have a chance to reach the green,” revealed the two-time Masters champion. He didn’t quite make it to the putting surface, but was close enough to save par to round off a great day’s work. It was solid stuff,” added Langer, who confessed he is playing this week with “a little bit more motivation” than usual after squandering a four-shot lead in the US Open a fortnight ago, though he graciously handed credit to Englishman Roger Chapman for coming out on top on that occasion.
After coming close to pulling out with a stiff neck – former winner Gary Player withdrew with the same ailment – Chapman wasn’t too disheartened to launch his bid for a third senior major this year with a 72. Greg Norman matched that, leaving Tom Watson to lead the way in their threeball after a 69.
“I made some good swings and hit some quality shots on the front nine, but my swing was sloppy on the back nine,” reported Watson, who bemoaned the fact he’s only shot a better back nine score once in his last 13 competitive rounds.
Bidding to go one better than 2009 – he lost in a play-off to Loren Roberts at Sunningdale –McNulty, born in Zimbabwe but now flying the Irish flag, came in late in the day with his 65 to sit just ahead of a logjam on four-under that includes former Open champion Tom Lehman.
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