DOUBLE DISTRACTION - Stevie's Rant Distracts from the Real Story

Wednesday, 10 August 2011 18:58

Douglas Han



The Stevie Williams Rant Double Distracts from the Real Story: The Long Putter


Let’s get this out of the way. Tiger’s former caddie Stevie Williams’s ranting really took away from the more important story of the event: Adam Scott was allowed to win using that ridiculous putter.

Very clever but it is not going to work.


The Stevie rant got people talking about all the obvious things. So first, let’s get those out of the way so we can properly consider the real conspiracy.

We can list the obvious things which have already been written and talked about ad nauseum:

  • Yes, Stevie probably helped Scott win.
  • Yes, Stevie is only famous because he was Tiger’s caddie otherwise it would not have been fun to interview him.
  • Yes, Stevie took away from Scott’s win by being the big story coming out of Firestone and likely being the story this week at the PGA - even though he is already back-tracking a bit. 
  • Yes, Stevie sounded bitter and mean sprited when he said that it was his most satisfying week as a caddie, despite winning 13 Majors with Tiger.
  • Yes, Stevie sounds ridiculous when he uses the first person “I” to describe how many tournaments “he” has won, including this last one which Adam Scott won.

We can all agree on these points to some degree. Even though commentators make these points in an loud outraged voice or a wise professorial voice, it is really a lot of bluster. The reality is that other than as a human interest story about Stevie's personality and his post break-up relationship with Tiger, who really cares what Steve Williams thinks? Do we really car what Jeff Gordon's mechanic thinks about racing? Do we care what Rafael Nadal's trainer thinks about tennis? Do I really care that the pharmacist thinks that Trojans are better than Durex. He's not the one who has to perform. Okay, bad example ... really, who would ever wear a condom?

No one would deny a caddie can be very important.  But, a caddie is in a no-lose situation.  The beauty about being an established caddie for a top player is that you get some notoriety and credit when your player wins but no blame or criticism when your player loses. Nor should you. I don’t want to hear Stevie take any blame should Adam Scott blow a lead late in the PGA Championship. In reality, who cares? Golf is an individual sport. The success and failure belongs to the individual golfer. It is not even a sport where coaching and strategy can be the responsibility of another person. The final strategy, execution, mentality and ownership of a golfer’s round rests with the golfer. That is why it is compelling.


Now, I’m all for drama, acrimony, bad feeling and revenge in sports so, Stevie, stop backtracking and keep it up.


The real distraction this is creating is that they gave Adam Scott a huge check and a big trophy even though he used that ridiculous broomstick putter.  I would prefer to be seen playing Quidditch at a Harry potter fantasy camp than using one of those things

Scott should be riding this thing instead of using it to play golf. In fact, I think it may even be too long under Quidditch rules (by the way, if you don’t know what Quidditch is, you win a point).


The master stroke resulting from Williams’ rant is that there is now a group of people who actually feel sorry for Adam Scott for not getting enough credit. Hogwarts-wash. He is getting too much credit for "winning."


The long putter could be the downfall of golf.


The Problem with the Long Putter

There are several feelings which course though one's golf veins while watching Scott “win” with the broomstick. Disgust. Pity. Boredom.


It is one of the few time in golf that you cheer against the ball going in. Think about when you watch a golf tournament on TV. Sure, there are players you may be rooting against; but somehow you always get a bit of pleasure, or at least admiration as a fellow golfer, when a great shot is struck or a nice putt goes in - even if that player is beating your player. The exception is when someone drops a putt with a long putter. Something just doesn’t feel right.

Looks – The thing looks ridiculous

First thing first: the thing looks ridiculous. Golf faces enough criticism that it is not a sport without having a top player carry around a broomstick.


If the long putter became the norm, golf ratings would plummet. It simply does not look athletic or skilled in any manner. It is dumbing the game down too much. If the most critical part of the game ultimately looks like something Uncle Pat (gender-undefined on purpose) could do as well as a top professional, then it is not interesting or compelling.


Television should be worried more than anyone that the top players will become a bunch of guys holding brooms. We love curling, but ESPN, FOX and CBS are not exactly fighting over a bunch of men holding brooms.


Consider curler Kevin Martin. I’m not saying he’s not an athlete and doesn’t get great TV ratings in Canada, but this is not the model to which golf should be aspiring (although I like curling in that, along with darts, they are sports at the recreational level in which drinking beer is important, if not integral, to the enjoyment of the game ... while you are playing).


Plain and simple: the long putter looks bad. We all know how important looks are to golf and golfers.

Okay, so I’ve always had a soft spot for good ol' Lumpy - but it proves the point. One is more inspired to have another Krispy Kreme rather than watch him play competitive golf.

And we all know aesthetics means something in athletics. Tiger wouldn’t have been Tiger if he didn’t look like an athlete. Greg Norman wouldn’t have become the icon he is by being The Great White Walrus. This raises a good point, the modern television icons in golf have been Tiger, The Great White Shark and the Bear. Beautiful and powerful animals. As much as we all love Craig Stadler, if the Tour had relied on the Walrus for aesthetics (or acting ability, considering his corrugate-like thespian skills in Tin Cup), then golf would be sharing Saturday mornings with the pro bowling tour (Hmm, come to think of it bowling is another beer-drinking activity. We may be getting to the point where we’re discovering more activities that are better with beer than less. Call your sponsor).


Aesthetics should be enough to ban the long putter. There are actually more technical reasons.


Size Does Matter

First, the thing does not even fit in the bag. It sticks out like a chopstick in a toothpick holder. There are certain things which simply do not belong together because of size.


I think there is another obvious element which proves it is not part of the game. Because there is no rule against it under the USGA Rules, the long putter can be used by a player when determining one of two club lengths (whichever is applicable) for a drop. Now, we would all be shocked to see Scott or Carl Pettersson use the long putter to measure a drop with a tournament on the line. I think there would be outrage if one of these players got and extra several feet for the drop. I believe Scott and Pettersson would use the driver to be on equal footing for fear of being ostracized by other players. In other words, even though it is within the rules and significantly advantageous to use the long putter, a player would not use his long putter for measuring a drop. I don't think a guy playing a $2 nassau at your local municipal course would do that. This itself is acknowledgment that the long putter is not really a fair club.

The club is simply too long and does not belong in golf.


The Pyschology of Golf Means as Much as the Stroke


The long putter should be banned because it works.


Steroids work. Aluminum bats work. Goalie pads that are the size of the net would work. Blow-up sex dolls wor … I hear they work. That does not justify their use.

Aside from aesthetics, a significant problem is that long putters work. A person with a lot of practice will become good enough with the long putter so as to be able to hit pure putts even when nervous and under pressure. In fact, it is likely a lot of people could become very good putters using the long putter. I bet Charles Barkley could become very good with the long putter. That's why it should not be part of golf. Once a club puts everyone on the same playing field, it removes the point of competition. If you get to the point where you are hitting pure putts 90% of the time, you will no longer have the nervousness and emotional ups and downs that go with putting. An let’s never forget: putting is 50% of this game. Putting is how you score. Dropping a 10 footer can give you a huge boost while three putting from 20 feet can be devastating.


This is not to say every putt hit by a long putter will go in (although it seemed that way with Scott). The problem is that if everyone became proficient with the long putter, one would no longer get nervous or frustrated with misses. There was no twitch. There was no nervousness. If it missed, it simply missed because of the variance of speed, bumps and luck. No worries.


The misery of missed putts and the elation of making clutch putts help and hurt all other aspects of your golf game for the entire round. The reverse is also true. Making some great swings from the tee and fairway will impact your performance on the green.  It is the nervous twitching of the hands, arms, shoulders and mind when you putt that form part of the battle which is golf. Putting is not something done in isolation. It is integral and weaved into the overall psychological war that constitutes a round of golf.


Now, you may be wondering if it is true that the long putter actually works – why isn’t everyone using one? It is because there a stigma to the long putter. The stigma could go away so we must do something before that happens. The last thing we need is a bunch of younger players using the long putter as a quick way to get ahead. That is shortsighted. Unless we stop it, the long putter will ultimately ruin golf.


Ban the Long Putter Before It’s Too Late


Time to act is now before someone wins a major with one. Vijay with the belly putter was bad enough. We can phase it out if we have to - like grooves. Say to those currently cheating with one: within 5 years there will be a maximum putter length.

USGA, R&A, PGA -- please do something about this. It was your job to safeguard and grow the game. The long putter will do harm to both objectives. Brooms are for curling.