Adam Scott became the first player to use a long putter – and the anchoring method of employing it – to win the Masters Tournament.
Scott is the fourth major champion in the last six of those events to use either a long putter or belly putter, joining Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA), Webb Simpson (2012 U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (2012 British Open).
But did anchoring help Scott win at Augusta National Golf Club? Was it the difference in capturing his first major championship and becoming the first Australian to win the Masters? And will it further irritate the purists, who are eagerly hoping the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club follow through with plans to ban anchoring for putting strokes on Jan. 1, 2016?
Scott, whose success in major championships and other significant events has improved greatly since he began using the long putter, doesn’t know if his playoff victory over Angel Cabrera on Sunday will affect the issue – especially the manner in which he won, draining a 25-foot birdie putt in regulation to earn a spot in the playoff, then knocking in a 15-footer for birdie on the second hole of sudden death.
Scott one-putted the 72nd hole and both playoff holes but he still needed 32 putts in the final 18 holes of regulation and had only four one-putts before the 18th hole.
“I don’t know that it is going to have any impact on any decisions upcoming,” Scott said. “We’re all waiting to hear what’s going to happen.”
The USGA and R&A announced plans to ban anchoring in November, then sought the opinions of other golf governing bodies during what it called an “open comment period.”
The score so far is 2-2: the PGA Tour and the PGA of America have come out against the ban, and the LPGA and European PGA Tour have said they will support whatever decision the USGA and R&A make.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced the Tour’s stance Feb. 24, saying that it was the will of the players through the player-directors on the PGA Tour Policy Board and the 16-member Players Advisory Council.
Golf fans and media were waiting during Masters Week to see if Augusta National would break the tie. But during his pre-tournament news conference, Chairman Billy Payne said there would be no official stance from the club.
“We are not a governing body,” he said. “We are a golf club that puts on a tournament, so we wouldn’t be presumptuous to say that we have that kind of influence. Given the fact that the ruling bodies have not yet declared a decision following the open comment period, I do think it would be inappropriate for us to express an opinion.”
His only hint on how the winds might blow in Augusta was when he hoped the governing bodies “can reach common ground so that golf will continue under one set of rules.”
But will Scott winning the Masters with his broomstick putter change minds at Augusta National?
The raw numbers say his long putter didn’t matter. Scott was 39th in putting among the field, averaging 1.67 putts per green in regulation. That put him in the bottom half of the players who made the cut.
Nor was it an apparent advantage for anyone else using long putters. Ernie Els was third in putting and finished in a tie for 13th in the tournament. Fred Couples tied for fourth in putting and joined Els in the tie for 13th. Bernhard Langer was the only other player among the top 10 in putting who anchors, and he tied for 25th in the tournament.
The only players using a long or belly putter who were among the top 10 in putting stats and among the top 20 in the tournament were Couples, Els and Tim Clark.
Matt Kuchar uses a belly putter but he rests it against his left forearm, a practice the USGA has already told him will remain permissible even if the ban on anchoring goes through. He tied for 15th in putting and for eighth in the tournament.
One of the players who said Scott didn’t have an edge was the man he beat in the playoff.
“I don’t think there is an advantage,” Cabrera said. “If it really is an advantage, why doesn’t everybody play it?”