Prior to 2011, players using ‘long’ or ‘belly’ putters was fairly rare. Then this happened:
2011 PGA Championship –> Keegan Bradley (belly putter)
2012 U.S. Open –> Webb Simpson (belly putter)
2013 Masters –> Adam Scott (broomhandle)
These three major wins for the long putter sparked a reaction that led to many PGA Tour players switching and trying their luck with the long putter. It didn’t take long for the USGA and other organizations to enforce a rule that effectively banned the use of long putters. In 2013, they announced the ban would begin on January 1, 2016.
Well it’s been 3 years since the announcement, and 7 months since the actual ban was implemented. Seems like a good time to check in on the 3 players responsible for the ban.
In the graph below, I have plotted the average strokes gained in each half year for Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott, and Carl Pettersson (a long-time user of the long putter).
LINK TO INTERACTIVE VERSION HERE: LINK
First thing to note is that prior to the announcement of the ban, they were all around average putters, maybe a bit better than average. In the first year and a half after the announcement, Keegan, Webb, and Adam all continued to pick shots up on the field on the greens. However that is where things started falling apart, perhaps due to the experimentation phase they all went through with the short putter.
First was Adam and Webb, who both went from gaining around half a shot on the greens in the first half of 2014, to losing almost a full shot on the greens by mid 2015.
Then it was poor Keegan, who was surviving the pre-ban span much better than the other two. However, in the first half year after the ban was enforced, he was losing an average of 1.3 strokes a round on the greens. Certainly not what we expected when we were watching him wielding the belly putter at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Adam and Webb did actually bounce back in the first half of 2016, only to once again fall back to the lows with Keegan losing around half a shot a round in the latter half of 2016.
So what is the conclusion here?
The ban hurt these guys by the looks of it. Especially since golf is such a fickle game, this ban probably bled into all aspects of the mental and physical game.