Kuchar relieved his putting stroke is not banned
Photos: Players that use belly/long putters
Here is a photo gallery of the PGA Tour, LPGA and Champions Tour players that use belly and long putters.
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – There was a grin on his face. OK, so that’s not exactly news when you’re talking about Matt Kuchar, but on this brilliant California morning, he had good reason to be smiling.
Not that he had gotten up to watch the televisted press conference at 5:30 a.m. West Coast time, but news travels fast so Kuchar already had heard that he was OK. Correction, his putting technique was OK, as specified by the USGA and the R&A in their decision to ban anchoring.
Was he surprised? Did he feel as if he had been given a reprieve? Kuchar didn’t indicate as much, perhaps because he had gotten positive messages in recent weeks.
“I did hear they were outlawing anchoring,” Kuchar said. “I didn’t quite fully read and fully understand everything, but I was under the impression that the way I hold the putter, or use the putter, is OK.”
Kuchar does use a longer putter, but instead of jamming the butt end into his stomach, a la Keegan Bradley or Webb Simpson, he runs the grip along his left forearm. The crucial difference between his method and say Bradley’s or Simpson’s, is “they want the player to control both ends of the club,” Kuchar said. “They want the butt end to move and the way I use it is both ends do move. The butt end isn’t anchored.”
During this lengthy period of time in which dialogue has gone back-and-forth between players and the rules-makers of the USGA and R&A, there was always speculation that Kuchar’s technique would be banned, as well as those used by belly putters and broomstickers. “But I was hoping I’d be OK with the rule and it sounds like I am,” Kuchar said.
He is, but that doesn’t mean he still isn’t swept into the controversy. He’s a member of the PGA Tour, friends with players who are on both sides of the issue, those who anchor and those who don’t. So he was asked: Is this a good ruling?
Kuchar chose his words carefully.
“I think anybody who uses a short putter thinks it’s a good thing,” he said. “Any competitive player likes to have an extra advantage and so outlawing the connecting belly putter . . . anyone who uses the long putter or belly-putter is not happy.”
Kuchar, of course, is a curious case study. Always reliable with the flat stick, he ranked 10th in 2009 and eight in 2010 in the suddenly popular statistical category called “strokes gained putting.” Yet, he felt he needed to get more consistent, so he settled on a putter that is somewhere in length between a traditional putter and a belly putter. He even said he moved over to the belly putter “for a full month” early in his search.
“I was hoping to find an advantage or a consistency, but I never quite developed a comfort level (with the belly putter),” Kuchar said. “I never could figure it out, so there’s definitely a skill to the belly putter; you just don’t pick it up and start making putts automatically.”
Despite that knowledge, Kuchar didn’t seem to be lobbying for the belly putter crowd. “I agree with what the USGA and R&A did,” he said.
Of course, Kuchar agreed that there’s a curious stretch of time ahead for golf, given that many will continue to be able to anchor the putter, even though it’s penciled in to be “against the rules” in 2016.
“It is weird. (But) I think (players) will use it. Everyone knows the rule (that allows anchoring) still exists. It’s legal till 2016.”
And Kuchar can consider his method legal even beyond that.