Monday, March 9, 2015

Thoughts on Adam Scott Switching to the Standard Putter

With the anchored putting stroke ban coming up next season, we are starting to see anchored putters on Tour switching to ‘standard’ putters. Former Masters champion, Adam Scott, is in the midst of trying to transition to the standard putter at Doral. The rumor is that Scott will try and use the standard putter for a little bit in competition at Doral where there is no cut line, but will likely use the long putter at the majors.

I’ve mentioned this going back to 2011 Pro Golf Synopsis; the trend for Tour players using the long putter and anchoring typically showed substantial improvement in Putts Gained in the 4th year of using that long putter *as long as* their use of the long putter has been continuous. I never found any trends between the belly putter and putts gained performance mainly because the length of time using the belly putter wasn’t very long. The belly putter was popular from about 2001-2003, then became almost extinct and then rose to prominence around 2010. And the players using the belly putter were either players that had little or no putting history on Tour (they either came right off the Tour or from college) or they were not very committed to using the belly putter; often switching between the belly putter and a standard putter.

What we did see was Scott, right on cue, substantially improved his Putts Gained in his 4th year of using the long putter (2011):

One of the things I often hear about Scott is that ‘he’s not a good putter with the long putter anyway.’ While that has some merit as he ranked worse than the average in Putts Gained in his first 3 seasons of using the long putter, the trend is pointing upward to the point where he was a pretty good putter in 2014. Put it this way, here’s a graph looking at his rankings with the short putter and the long putter so where we can more easily see the trends.

The black dots represent when Scott was using the long putter and the yellow dots are when he was using the standard length putter.

That is why I could see the argument for banning the long putters (but NOT all anchored strokes). Others users of the broomstick like Chris Couch, Carl Pettersson, Scott McCarron, etc. all saw that substantial improvement in their putting in the 4th year. So at the very least, the USGA and the Tour could say that there was some signs of using the long putter being beneficial to Tour players. Instead, they gave a cockamamie reason of it not looking like a real stroke despite it going on for the past 25 years. Furthermore, there has not been a clearly identifiable trend with using the belly putter and putts gained, so it may have been a slippery stroke to ban the long putter and not the belly putter.


So, how much do I think going to the short putter will affect Scott’s putting?

I think it will impact his putting quite a bit. But, I will get to that a little later.

After taking a putting lesson from John Graham ( using the SAM Puttlab, John explained in detail a lot of the questions I had with the putting stroke and why my putting has gone south over the years, particularly compared to my college golf days when I used to putt quite well.

The big thing for me was that I would accelerate the putter head thru impact; making a noticeable ‘hitting’ motion into the ball. Erik Barzeski wrote a great article about why you do NOT want to accelerate the putter head thru the ball at:

Before my lesson I felt that this was a problem I was having with my putting stroke. I had watched a putting lesson on The Golf Channel with Brad Faxon and he had talked about how you DO NOT want to have long follow thru with your putting stroke.

This makes sense in accordance to Barzeski’s article; a longer follow thru would indicate that you are accelerating the putter head instead of decelerating the putter. Otherwise, how do you achieve a long follow thru?

The issue was I did not think that abruptly stopping the follow thru (Faxon did *not* recommend that either) was the answer either.

John explained to me in the lesson that if you simply allow ‘gravity to do the work’ and ‘drop the putter head on the ball’ that the putter head will automatically reach the peak velocity at the bottom of the arc and then as the putter head rises upward it will automatically decelerate at impact.

I think Ben Crenshaw is a really great example of a player allowing the putter head to fall into the ball, allowing gravity to do the work.

The video also shows Loren Roberts’ putting stroke and he does not appear to decelerate into impact, but if you look at his SAM Puttlab report he actually does:

Here’s a video from Loren Roberts discussing some of his putting stroke philosophy:

In my lesson with John Graham, he had me hit strokes and try to allow gravity to do the work and get the putter head to fall on the ball. I would then look at the thru-stroke acceleration profile after every putt on the SAM Puttlab and see if I could get that deceleration.

Eventually, I asked John to putt some so I could see what the stroke looks like. John had no issue with getting the putter head to decelerate into impact, but what I was amazed by was how unnoticeable it appeared in the stroke.

I think with Loren Roberts’ putting stroke he is allowing the putter head to fall onto the ball, but because he has the philosophy of having the same length stroke back and the same length follow thru he is able to have that long follow thru. But, I think for the typical person being able to have the same length stroke back as they have the same length follow thru and being able to decelerate the putter head into impact is a tall order because they are likely to end up accelerating the putter head in order to get the length of the follow thru.


So, why do I think the movement to the shorter putter can negatively affect Scott’s putting?

I think part of the issues Scott had with the putter was that his putter was either accelerating into impact or the speed had plateaued into impact.

Now that I’ve been made aware and better understand the deceleration of the putter head into impact, I have a better idea of what to look for and how to see it. And I see a lot of Tour players that accelerate the putter head and most of the time they are struggling in Putts Gained.

About a month ago I saw a Facebook video called ‘Muni Madness’ from my friend, Victor Rodriguez. It’s basically a group of guys playing a muni course under the lights and they will play in an 8-some. The video showed the guys putting on the green and all of them looked like good players. And it was funny how I could now spot the players that properly decelerated the putter head into impact and those that accelerated into impact. The players that decelerated used a standard putter with a standard putting grip and either made their putt or just missed. The players that accelerated their putter heads were using all sorts of grips (left hand low, claw grip, saw grip, etc) with wacky putter designs and almost all missed the putt.

For myself, I did not have real issues with speed by accelerating the putter head. However, I think it is perfectly logical to have speed control issues if you are not decelerating the putter head into impact. By accelerating it, I think you are more apt to have issues with altering the acceleration because you’re using muscular force and that can be a tricky thing compared to letting gravity do the work where I think it will result in more of an automatic and consistent amount of acceleration. So with Scott, it wouldn’t surprise me if he had speed control issues with the putter.

But, where I had major issues with my putting was that I would miss left. This despite that I had a RIGHTWARD aim bias at address.

What was happening?

The putter face rotates on the downswing and by accelerating the putter head into impact, it would often cause for the rotation to occur too quickly and it would leave the putter face shut at impact. It would also explain why I usually putted left-to-right putts better than right-to-left putts despite being right handed. I was able to get the putter face left on those left-to-right putts and would not miss those putts low.

To me, I think the long putter that Scott was using works better than short putters for players that accelerate the putter head into impact.

Most users of the broom stick tend to use a ‘saw grip’

The idea of the saw grip is to incorporate a stroke where the player is using almost like a ‘piston firing’ motion with their right forearm, much like The Golf Machine calls for in a ‘hitting procedure’ type of swing. There is no ‘letting the putter head drop’ as it is an active and conscious muscular force motion. And for whatever reason, the long putter seems to allow for those accelerators and hitters of the putter to putt better after a while than the short putter. And Scott was seen at Doral using a saw grip with a standard putter because that grip is the same grip he uses with the long putter. Considering he ranked 55th in Putts Gained last season, I think the transition to the short putter is going to be a tall order for him to putt that well anytime soon. Thankfully for Scott, he’s a great enough ballstriker and hits it long so he can putt poorly and still win out on Tour.


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