Langer shares thoughts on the long and short of putters

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World Golf Hall of Famer (and long putter user) Bernhard Langer will go for his second win at the 3M Championship this week.
August 01, 2012
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

Anytime there's talk of putting in general and elongated putters specifically, a noted Champions Tour player is an obvious go-to guy on the subject.

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It only makes sense that a golfer with Bernhard Langer's far-reaching experience and unquestioned forthrightness on all things golf is somebody with valuable insights.

With the long putter issue on a boil these days in advance of what many believe will be a defining decision by the USGA and the R&A, it's not surprising that many top golfers have been asked about it.

Langer didn't hesitate when the subject was broached by the media last week at the Senior British Open. When he has something to say, it's worth listening. That's how much respect Langer -- a two-time Masters champion, former European Ryder Cup captain (2004) and winner 84 times worldwide - has in the world of golf. Langer will tee it up Friday at the 3M Championship at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minn., an event he won in 2009 and was runner-up in 2008.

Langer is currently using a broomhandle putter. Over the years, he has used a variety of methods to combat the yips and he's found answers frequently enough and long enough to carve out a Hall of Fame career.

"The thing I don't understand, they have been talking about it for seven, eight, nine years now, right, at least," Langer said at Turnberry. "And the long putter has been out 30 years, 35 years now, I don't know how long it's been in action. 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 (percent) at the most.

"Why aren't the other 75 percent going to it if it's that much of an advantage or better or easier? That's my opinion on it. But what does my opinion matter?"

It should matter. Langer is an icon in the profession.

Langer is No. 2 on the all-time list of European Tour wins with 42, behind only Seve Ballesteros' 50. In 1986, the German was the first player to be anointed No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Langer was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002.

"It was OK until somebody won a major, and then it's not OK?" Langer asked rhetorically. "I don't take that argument whatsoever, sorry. There were guys using it for 25 years, nobody won a major and now because two or three guys have won, it's illegal? That doesn't make sense."

Langer's experience with the long putter began with an introduction by Sam Torrance, among the best-known practitioners among the broomhandle gang.

"I actually just played at The Belfry some year, and I was putting okay this way, and Sam Torrance was there and he said, 'You should try the long putter,'" Langer said. "I said, 'Well, I don't think, so but let me have a go with yours.' He handed me his putter and I said, 'What do you do? How did you hold it?'

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Tom Lehman attended the University of Minnesota and would love nothing more than to win the 3M Championship. Rankings

"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 said he's never been approached from an official of the ruling bodies for his thoughts on long putters.

"They 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 -- '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 (at Turnberry) and he didn't bring it up."

Langer added another element to the debate when he said the focus on anchored putters devalues the victories of recent major champions -- Webb Simpson at the U.S. Open and Ernie Els at the British Open.

"I think it does, because it takes a lot of practice," Langer said. "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.

"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. Obviously there are some advantages, too. But by no means is it easier because otherwise, everybody would be using them, and they are not."

Champions Tour Insider Vartan Kupelian is a freelance contributor for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. He can be reached at [golfstix@aol.com]

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