Less than a week ago as the Open Championship was finishing up, Padraig Harrington spoke out about on the subject of belly and long putters. Little did he know Ernie Els was in the process of winning the 141st championship, which helped to draw greater attention to the topic. However, Harrington, sponsored by the R&A, was inclined to share his feeling but also single out one particular player along the way. "The only reason it got through is the people that used it 20 years ago were coming to the end of their careers. People would have been sympathetic and didn't want to finish Bernhard Langer's career by telling him you can't hold it like this, you can't attach it to your arm. They didn't want to say, oh, that's it, you can't play anymore, and that's why it got by,” Harrington stated.
Langer playing in the Senior Open Championship pushed back with his feelings on the topic. “The thing I don't understand, they have been talking about it for seven, eight, nine years now, right, at least,” he began. “The long putter has been out 30 years, 35 years now. To me, it's a little surprising that they are trying to get rid of something that's been out that long and used by a number of people. The other thing is, I find it interesting that if the long putter is so easy to use, why isn't there 90 percent of the players using the long putter. If it's easier, why doesn't everybody use it? What's the percentage of guys using the long putter? Ten percent, 20 at the most. Why aren't the other 75 per cent going to it if it's that much of an advantage or better or easier?” Langer was only warming up on the subject.
“So it was okay until somebody won a Major, and then it's not okay? I don't take that argument whatsoever, sorry. There were guys using it for 25 years, nobody won a Major, 30 years; and now because two or three guys have won, it's illegal? That doesn't make sense?” he questioned. “I'm not sure if I was one of the first. Sam Torrance had been using it for a long time. Sam Snead might have been one of the first to have gone to a longer putter. And there were a bunch of other Americans that were pretty well known. And I actually just played at The Belfry and I was putting okay this way, and Sam Torrance was there and he said, ‘You should try the long putter.’ I said, ‘Well, I don't think, so but let me have a go with yours.’ So he handed me his putter and I said, "What do you do? How did you hold it?’ And he was holding it here and I couldn't do that.
So all these years, I tried a couple, and it felt like the putter head was going all over the place and my putts were not even close to where I was looking at, and I said, I'll never use that thing again, or unlikely. And then two or three years later, I tried it again, spent several weeks really working hard on it, and practicing a lot with it, and got somewhat comfortable with it and put it into play.
Langer is concerned the ruling bodies are only hearing one side the argument against the long putters. “Well, they (R&A) are talking to all of the other players, so why aren't they talking to us, too,” he said. “You hear all of these quotes from Gary Player or Luke Donald or whoever else, all of the guys who use the short putter, they are all being quoted; yeah, we need to ban the long putter. Why don't they ask some of us and quote us, too, just to make it fair. They are going to decide whatever they are going to decide eventually, anyways. I even played with Peter Dawson in the Pro‑Am yesterday or two days ago and he didn't bring it up.”
The perception, right or wrong, is the putters automatically make a player better. Langer said that isn’t the case. “It takes a lot of practice. It's not like, oh, take a long putter and it's automatically going in the hole. That's a bunch of baloney. It takes a lot of practice. You've still got to make a stroke. It's not like give me that and it's automatically a good stroke. No way,” he declared. “I've made some horrible strokes with the long putter. In many ways, it's actually harder, believe it or not, because you have a longer thing to move and you have to be even more precise with it. It's easier to move a chopstick in a precise manner than to move a longer broomstick or something like that to talk of length of putters, I believe. So obviously there's some advantages, too. But by no means is it easier because otherwise, everybody would be using them, and they are not.”
The two-time Masters champion said he respects the rules but is challenged by the public sentiment that seems to be on display lately. “I guess they want to ride the traditional thing, whatever that is. I mean, I agree with the Rules of Golf that we need to respect the etiquette. You give yourself penalty shots when you move the ball or something happens. You want to always conduct yourself in the right manner, and we need to pass that on, that's for sure,” he said. “But that's what I'm saying. It's kind of weird that something that's been in play for that long to now just come up and say, well, we think it's illegal now; it was okay 20 years ago, 30, but now it's not. If it was an unfair advantage, or whatever you want to call it, why didn't they ban it immediately or within a year or two when they saw the first few guys, and say, that's not right, let's do something about it. That's certainly one thing that bothers me.”