Saturday 24 February 2018

Norman and Trevino break code of silence

Adam Scott is one of four of the past six Major winners to use a long putter – something which legendary Lee Trevino feels offers an unfair advantage
Adam Scott is one of four of the past six Major winners to use a long putter – something which legendary Lee Trevino feels offers an unfair advantage

Karl MacGinty

THANK heaven for men like Lee Trevino and Greg Norman and any others among golf's living icons prepared to stand up and tell it as it is.

In his own inimitable way, Trevino blew the lid off the long-putter debate, while Norman has rubbished the sport's hopeless anti-doping programme. Golf is beset by political correctness and has its own version of 'omerta'. So it falls on people like Trevino and Norman, who clearly no longer feel bound by any code of silence, to expose half-truths, untruths and guilty omissions.

Trevino brilliantly nailed any lies about the long putter after trying one for himself at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in Savannah.

Tex-Mex told leading US golf writer Adam Schupak of 'Golf Digest': "I had the yips so badly with that little putter I thought I'd bleeding ulcers."

So he put a TaylorMade Ghost belly putter in the bag for the final round and afterwards revealed his putting was vastly improved.

"Now I see why they want to make this one illegal," he said. "It's like cheating. I swear to God. It's the easiest thing I've ever seen to putt with, that belly putter."

As for leading Champions Tour player Bernhard Langer, Trevino said: "There's no question, he wouldn't be playing like he is if it wasn't for the long putter. It takes the pressure out."


Trevino's words cut straight through much of the self-serving guff that's been spoken, particularly by those in US professional circles, since the game's ruling bodies, the USGA and R&A, signalled their intent to ban the use of long putters through 'anchoring' in January 2016.

Those who oppose the ban chant the illogical mantra that long putters have been around so long it's too late to do anything about them now, while some 'anchorers' suggest there's no evidence that it brings them any advantage. No question, when it comes to anchoring, there really are lies, damned lies and Tour putting statistics!

As any teaching pro will tell you, belly and long putters help golfers at all levels overcome the yips because they take fidgety bits, like the wrists, out of the equation.

They also assist elite professionals in overcoming their rivals during those twitchy moments down the stretch late on Sunday afternoon.

Since the maximum benefit is accrued by the top player on a tiny fraction of the 72 holes played in the average stroke play event, there's no reason for those who anchor the putter to stand out on Tour putting charts.

The true impact of belly and long putters is measured in trophies won under the cosh, not statistics.

Four out of the past six Major championships is convincing enough, with Adam Scott, winner of the recent US Masters, offering persuasive evidence of the almost instant benefits anchoring can bring.

By his own admission, Scott switched to the long putter in January 2011 "because my putting confidence was really low and my stats from less than 10 feet were atrocious". It would soon become his 'equaliser'.

After a brief work-up in private with a new 49-inch broom-handle, Scott first used it at that year's Accenture Match Play. Less than three months later, he'd perfected it well enough to tie second at that April's Masters.

In the nine Majors he's played with the long putter, Scott has one win, two runner-up finishes and two other top-10s – not bad for a man who managed just four top-10s in his first 40 visits to golf's grand slam arena.

The PGA Tour and the separate PGA of America, who represent 27,000 teaching professionals, have joined other vested interests, like club manufacturers TaylorMade, in urging the R&A and USGA not to ban anchoring. The pressure on golf's governing bodies has been intense, especially with Tim Finchem, commissioner of the world's largest, richest and most prominent tour, publicly hinting they may implement their own rules in the event of a ban.

Hopefully, the R&A and USGA will have the guts to call the bluff of the strident minority, stick to their guns and outlaw a practice which once was the final refuge of the desperate but now is being used with impunity by 14-year-old Chinese schoolboys.

As a fraught time for golf's legislators, Trevino voiced the opinion of the silent majority.

Commissioner Finchem in particular and golf administrators in general have been given a lambasting by Norman after Vijay Singh's use of prohibited 'deer antler spray' exposed a huge hole in golf's anti-doping programme.

Last January in an interview with 'Sports Illustrated', the Fijian admitted using the spray, which purportedly contains the growth factor IGF-1.

Like quite a few other substances on the banned list, it requires a blood test to detect IGF-1 – uselessly, golf only does urine sampling.


Compounding the problem is the dark veil of secrecy drawn over the Singh case by the PGA Tour. The Fijian continued playing and, after teeing it up at the Masters, is entered in this week's Wachovia Championship at Quail Hollow.

The only chink of light in this disturbing episode was provided by R&A chief executive Peter Dawson last week when he said he understood the process had reached appeal stage and an announcement was expected soon.

Describing the failure to put a credible testing system in place as "disgraceful", Norman told Melbourne paper 'The Age': "You have to have blood testing, simple as that.

"It's a pin prick for a player and you find out what's going on. If you're the head of golf or any sport, if you're the commissioner for a sport, it's your responsibility to make sure your sport is clean. That should be your No 1 priority.

"You only have to look at Vijay Singh recently to know the issue is there. How deep is it? I have no idea because we only do urine analysis instead of blood testing," Norman added.

Straight talking of the sort you're unlikely to hear from within golf's 'pale'.

By expressing their views so forthrightly, Norman, Trevino and other outspoken icons offer further invaluable service to their sport.

Irish Independent

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