2004: Newsmakers - Mediate’s putter spurs 11th-hour adjustment

Augusta, Ga.

Early fireworks, occurring even before the Masters started, were provided by Rocco Mediate’s putter. The putter, made by Bob Bettinardi and named Roc & Roll, was declared nonconforming by the U.S. Golf Association the day before the start of the Masters.

A few days later, five fire trucks showed up at Bettinardi’s manufacturing plant in Tinley Park, Ill., to contend with fireworks of a different kind.

“A drill bit got caught in one of our machines,” explained Bettinardi, who makes Ben Hogan putters for Callaway Golf. “There was some smoke. The Tinley Park Fire Department sent in the cavalry, but, really, there wasn’t any problem.”

The putter was another matter.

The design was sketched on a piece of paper by Mediate (“I call it brick on a stick,” said Mediate), who was resting at home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., because of a sore back after withdrawing from the Bay Hill Invitational. When Bettinardi visited him during The Players Championship, Mediate asked, “Can you make this?”

Of course. “It is the simplest putter I’ve made in 15 years,” Bettinardi said. “It’s basically a rectangular block of aluminum. I made one for Rocco, for Bernhard (Langer) and for Vijay (Singh).”

The problem: Roc & Roll, named after Mediate, was not submitted to the USGA because of a time crunch. In Augusta, rules chairman David Rickman of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club began communicating with USGA senior technical director Dick Rugge in Far Hills, N.J.

There were two points of contention:

1 - The heel and toe of the putter were too flat (they cannot be designed for striking the ball);

2 - The bent area of the putter (including the hosel and any bent portion of the shaft) barely exceeded the 5-inch maximum.

“It measured 5 inches and 1⁄16,” Mediate said, “or missed by roughly the width of two sheets of paper. One of the Hogan reps told me I needed to have the putter checked. I’m glad I did.”

Said Rickman, “I measured it and communicated the results to the USGA. I find it extraordinary that the putter was never sent to the USGA.”

After it was declared nonconforming, the putter was altered in Callaway’s tour van. Two holes were drilled in the heel, two in the toe. The bent portion of the shaft was trimmed by a quarter-inch.

This allowed the putter to be played in the Masters by Mediate, who missed the cut (Langer and Singh did not use it). The putter still must be formally submitted to the USGA for approval.

“I am such a stickler for the rules,” Bettinardi said. “This won’t happen again. I never want to put my players in jeopardy.”

Well, you know what they say: Roc & Roll is here to stay.

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