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From Akshay Bhatia to Will Zalatoris, more TOUR players make switch to long putters

6 Min Read


Akshay Bhatia made the change to a broomstick putter to start the year at The Sentry. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Akshay Bhatia made the change to a broomstick putter to start the year at The Sentry. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Written by Sean Martin @PGATOURSMartin

    KAPALUA, Hawaii – Professional athletes can be a proud bunch. Their pride is both a cause and effect of their success, giving them the requisite confidence to excel at their craft but also serving as a hindrance to adopting any method that could cause embarrassment or convey weakness.

    It’s why Shaquille O’Neal said he’d rather miss all of his free throws than shoot them underhanded. Wilt Chamberlain, a man so dominant that he forced the NBA to change his rules, actually experimented with the method nicknamed the “granny shot” but abandoned it quickly even though it led to improvement.

    In golf, the broomstick putter is a similar solution to an equally vexing problem. It’s often considered a crutch for the aged or desperate who can no longer sink the game’s simplest shots on a consistent basis.

    The broomstick is slowly gaining popularity on the PGA TOUR, however. There is comfort in a crowd.

    Entering this season, there were as many as a half-dozen in play. A pair of the game’s most promising young prospects, Akshay Bhatia and Will Zalatoris were among the adopters, making the switch in an attempt to better capitalize on their elite ballstriking. Lucas Glover was the most visible, using one to win in consecutive weeks last year, including the first event of the FedExCup Playoffs.

    Lucas Glover explains switch to long putter

    Byeong-Hun An also started using the long putter last summer and Si Woo Kim won last year’s Sony Open in Hawaii with one. He was the first player to win using the broomstick since Adam Scott won The Genesis Invitational in 2020 (Kim was using a short putter at last week’s The Sentry, though).

    So what’s behind this uptick in the broomstick’s usage?

    “They’re losing their ego, maybe?” An asked rhetorically about his peers. “It kind of tells you that you’re not the best putter.”

    An has used the broomstick to contend in each of 2024's first two events. He was one of three co-leaders halfway through the Sony Open in Hawaii. Two of them -- An and Carl Yuan -- use the long putter, attempting to become the second consecutive player to win the Sony with such a putter.

    There also was a broomstick putter in each of the final two groups at last week’s The Sentry. An played in the penultimate group, eventually finishing fourth. He finished 18th in Strokes Gained: Putting for the week.

    Bhatia led the field in SG: Putting through the first three rounds and started Sunday in second place. He lost his tee shot on the opening hole of the final round, however, made a double-bogey and finished T14 after shooting 71 on a low-scoring day.

    Bhatia still finished third in SG: Putting for the week, a marked improvement over 2023. He ranked 183rd out of 193 players in that metric, though the results may have been skewed because some of his best putting weeks, like his runner-up finish at the Puerto Rico Open and victory at the Barracuda Championship, came on weeks without ShotLink. At 21 years old, Bhatia is believed to be the youngest player to use the broomstick on TOUR. Zalatoris, who debuted his long putter at the Hero World Challenge, is 27.

    The broomstick putter is usually associated with PGA TOUR Champions players like Bernhard Langer and Scott McCarron, not players in their 20s. Both Bhatia and Zalatoris used arm-lock putters for their lone TOUR wins, at the 2023 Barracuda Championship and 2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship, respectively. Yuan is 26 years old.

    Will Zalatoris outduels Sepp Straka in dramatic playoff at 2022 FedEx St. Jude

    This week’s Sony Open in Hawaii is Zalatoris’ first official PGA TOUR start since last March after having a microdiscectomy. The switch to the long putter was partly to alleviate pressure on his back – his posture is more upright using the broomstick. But it was mostly a switch to find improvement on the greens. He was 103rd in SG: Putting in 2022. Putter manufacturer L.A.B. Golf sent Zalatoris a couple of the longer putters after someone at the company recognized his name when he tried to order some arm-lock putters from the company.

    “I ordered a couple arm-locks, and they ended up sending me a couple of broomsticks and it took me probably three months before I was actually able to start practicing with it," Zalatoris said at the Hero. "But immediately, I loved it. I can see the line so much better. It's just more comfortable too. I mean, I know I was a pretty streaky putter.”

    Will Zalatoris switched to broomstick-style putter prior to the Hero World Challenge back last year. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR)

    Will Zalatoris switched to broomstick-style putter prior to the Hero World Challenge back last year. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR)

    The Sentry was the first week Bhatia used a long putter for an entire week. The club got a one-round audition at the Fortinet Championship in September and was in the bag for the final three rounds of the final event of 2023, The RSM Classic. Last week also was the first time Bhatia used a long putter with the Jailbird head that was part of another recent putting trend. Rickie Fowler, Wyndham Clark and Keegan Bradley all won in 2023 using counterbalanced Jailbirds.

    Bhatia said he was taking a “no judgment” approach to the putter last week. Plenty of others are quick to cast aspersions on those who use the club, though. That’s why Glover told Bhatia: “Don't forget, all those people that you're worried about judging you want to be you.”

    Akshay Bhatia rolls in birdie putt at Butterfield Bermuda

    But it even took Glover a decade before he made the switch. That’s how long he fought a “debilitating” bout with the yips before using the broomstick.

    “Maybe I'm really stubborn,” Glover said. “You know, (the last) 10 years up until this run, I've underachieved and knew it. It was all because of putting. It was just believing in myself, and (being) hard-headed and stubborn enough to not give up.

    “It took something drastic to figure it out, but it's worked.”

    Shortly after switching, Glover rolled off five top-six finishes in six starts, including his back-to-back wins at the Wyndham Championship and FedEx St. Jude Championship. Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, had won just once in the previous 11 seasons and 2023 was the first multiple-win season of his career.

    He is one of multiple players who simply told the company that makes Scott’s long putter, L.A.B. Golf, to simply send him a club identical to Scott’s. Scott also was the inspiration for Presidents Cup teammates An and Kim to start using the club. According to GolfWRX, Kim debuted the club at the 2022 Presidents Cup.

    Scott started using the broomstick in 2011 and won with it at the 2013 Masters. The 2016 anchoring ban forced him to give it up until players found a way to use the club in accordance with the new rules. But even before the ban, winners with the club were rare. Tim Clark and Carl Pettersson were the two most prominent besides Scott.

    After the belly putter was banned, the arm-lock used by Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar became the preferred method for those who struggled with traditional putters. Could the broomstick be the PGA TOUR’s next putting trend?

    Sean Martin is a senior editor for the PGA TOUR. He is a 2004 graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. Attending a small school gave him a heart for the underdog, which is why he enjoys telling stories of golf's lesser-known players. Follow Sean Martin on Twitter.

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