Mon

15

Apr

2013

CONGRATULATIONS ADAM SCOTT! GREAT DRAMA. AMAZING WIN ... AND NOW USGA AND R&A: PLEASE BAN THE ANCHORED LONG-PUTTER IMMEDIATELY

Congratulations to Adam Scott. He struck the ball well.

Congratulations to Australia for its first Masters win. It was long overdue.

Congratulations to the Masters for an exciting tournament and fascinating ruling.

 

Adam Scott seems like a great guy.

Adam Scott is a handsome dude with a winning smile.

Adam Scott has a beautiful looking golf swing and hit his woods and irons amazingly well this week.

Adam Scott showed great emotion and engaging class during and after his win.

I’m very happy for Adam Scott.

 

Now, please ban the long putter immediately.

 

This is getting ridiculous.

 

The reliance on the long putter is a slippery slope away from the athletic endeavor that should be golf.

 

Like all golf fans, I was riveted to the television this weekend and especially the back nine (I was also assuming Jim Nantz had chambered, “like water off his back, El Pato [the duck] struts to another green jacket!” had Cabrera won this thing in the rain).

 

The 2013 Masters was great theatre. It was not great overall golf by the winner. It was great theatre because the path to the result was so full of tension. But so is The Bachelor. Arbitrary results may be good for dramatized dating shows, it is not good for sports.

 

Various sporting events throughout the year extend beyond the core fans to the general public – such as the Masters. However, this broader appeal only works in sports because of the underlying substance of the sport. The general public or general sports fan is interested in a particular event because they know (even if subconsciously) that the hardcore fans, the players and the aficionados understand, appreciate and respect the athlete’s abilities and what is happening on the field of play. Once that disappears, the sport will eventually wither away.

 

The ultimate problem with Scott’s Masters win is that there is no sense that he needed steely nerves to make his putt on the 18th hole in regulation or his winning putt on the second playoff hole - the two most critical aspects of this victory. For Scott and the long putter, watching him putt is simply a result-oriented mechanical event. It is not based on his athletic ability but from an action he merely initiates - like flipping a coin. There is no sense with the anchored long putter that athletic skill is relevant to the outcome of the action. It is the antithesis of sport.

 

Granted, at that point in the tournament, it was amazing television because we viewers were so invested in the outcome. However, this is a slippery path that does not bode well for the future.

 

Consider the World Series of Poker, Formula One Racing and even the tongue-in-cheek World Rock Scissors Paper world championships. They had brief shining moments extending beyond their core followers. However, sustained broad public interest has waned like so many shooting stars because of one thing: we don’t feel the ultimate results are directly tied to the best athletes in the world performing their craft. In auto-racing, they constantly have to reign in technology so the viewer does not feel the driver is irrelevant. This is also not to say a poker player is not significantly better than another player. In fact the statistics prove that poker is a game of skill. However, a successful poker player in the long term typically wins by erosion, not an unassailable single moment of skill. In poker, an amazingly skillful moment is beaten by the luck of the cards a significant percentage of the time. That is not the case for true sports.

 

The one thing we cannot say is that Adam Scott had nerves of steel to make that winning putt. Because of the anchored stroked and long putter, the signature moment of his victory took no nerves or skill at all.

 

It is a simple question: would Adam Scott have won the Masters without a long putter? The answer is no.

 

Would Jason Day or Angel Cabrera have been in the same position late Sunday afternoon had they been forced to use a long putter (and had several weeks to practice using it). This is not a simple answer. There is a reasonably good argument that the answer is yes.

Another Robotic Hot Australian?
Another Robotic Hot Australian?

While it has been written and possibly argued in many places, it is undeniable that the anchored stroke helps overcome nerves. It is not a coincidence that the amazing and gracious 14-year old Guan Tianliang uses an anchored long putter. 14 year olds do not typically compete in major golf championships. In other words, the anchored long putter is removing a critical element of the sport. On a standard par-72 course, putting is designed to make up 50 percent of the strokes. Putting is not a trivial matter or afterthought in the sport of golf. The putter is the club a golfer uses more than any other.

 

What direction do we want we want for golf? Do we want to get to a point where it is so mechanical that it becomes likes robots fighting? This is no future even if it's boxing robots or of course the original nerdier (if possible) version. It doesn’t matter how hot you make your Australian, whether its Hugh Jackman or Adam Scott, it’s still not a sport.


Here are the last four major winners.

Do we want golf to be dominated by long putters that don't need solid nerves ... or do we want Rory?
Do we want golf to be dominated by long putters that don't need solid nerves ... or do we want Rory?

 

If we do not rid ourselves of the scourge of the anchored long putter, golf may find itself in the position of shuffle-board. Once a proud sport, it all went downhill the time these four people becamce the the last 4 world championship winners:

 

The last four world shuffleboard champions
The last four world shuffleboard champions

 

That’s only funny because it could be true.

 

The USGA and R&A need to move up the timetable for the ban. The anchored stroke and the long putter must be banned now.

 

More often than not, the most tension-filled and exciting moments in golf come down to a putt. We cannot have a future in which the competitors are using the pendulum of an anchored stroke during these critical moments. It takes no skill. It becomes simply a result-oriented moment of chance. It is no different than watching a coin-flipping competition.

 

Sure, Scott had to be one of the best ball-strikers all week to put himself in the position to win. However, it is sad that the winning moment was not an athletic one but one primarily of chance. It is no accident the NFL and SuperBowl continue to grow as the most exciting and popular sport and sporting event in the world today. In football, they flip the coin at the start of the game, not to determine it.

 

 

Douglas Han

@theteesheet