SAN MARTIN, Calif. – The long putter is often viewed as a sign of weakness, especially among the college ranks. Conventional wisdom says these young studs should have the nerves to navigate the greens with a short putter.
Augusta State’s Henrik Norlander was one of those college players who relied on the broomstick putter. He switched back to the regulation model just before the Gifford Collegiate Invitational, though. The move paid off.
Norlander shot 3-under 68 in the first round at CordeValle Golf Club, and is just one shot off Patrick Cantlay’s first-round lead. Norlander is using a TaylorMade Rossa Ghost Daytona putter. The Anser-style putter has a white head.
Norlander, No. 12 in last season’s Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, switched to the short putter Nov. 2, the day after he returned to Augusta from the World Amateur Team Championship.
Norlander finished 20th in Argentina, despite making just one birdie over his final 39 holes. The final 12 holes of his second round, and entire third round, were played in extremely windy conditions.
“(The long putter) was great when the weather was good, but in bad conditions, it was very tough to use,” Norlander said. “I knew (switching to the short putter) was what I’d have to do if I wanted to be successful.”
When evaluating Norlander’s long-term golf prospects, the use of the long putter seemed to be the one strike against him.
He’s a talented ball-striker who’s able to adjust the length and speed of his swing to control his trajectory. That skill showed in Monday’s windy conditions. Norlander made six birdies on a day when just three players broke par. Five of those birdies came from putts of 10 feet or closer.
Norlander, who won the Gifford as a freshman, enjoys playing CordeValle, in part because the course allows him to hit low, “stinger” 3-woods off the tee. It’s a shot not all college players have.
Norlander switched to the long putter after last year’s Gifford.
“My attitude about putting was so bad,” he said. “I just felt I had to switch everything around, to get a better attitude and believe I could make putts.
“I played a lot of tennis when I was younger. I’m trying to compare to it to golf. You just run and hit the ball (in tennis). If it goes in, it goes in. If you hit it out, or in the net, you play the next point. That’s what I’m trying to think when I’m putting.”
Norlander displayed that mindset Monday. He was 2 over through six holes, but made five birdies and no bogeys over his final 12 holes to shoot 68,