May 29, 2014
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- Keegan Bradley need just 27 putts with a new putter he did not anchor on Thursday. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Following a poor putting week at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, Keegan Bradley decided to make a drastic putting change at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, shelving his 46.5-inch Odyssey White Hot XG Sabertooth for a non-anchored putter.
The switch paid off immediately for Bradley, as he recorded only 27 putts on Thursday at Muirfield Village, en route to a bogey-free 5-under 67.
It's rare that a putter switch gets more press than the actual round, but when you've been using the same putter model since 2010 — and it happens to be a belly putter — it's easy to see why everyone wanted to know more about Bradley's new flatstick.
Although the putter is a non-anchored model, it features the same 400-gram White Hot XG Sabertooth head, ski pole shaft and White Hot insert as his previous putter. The big difference is the length of the new putter (41 inches) that allowed Bradley to turn his belly putter into a counter balanced model. Along with the shorter shaft, the putter also has 40 grams of additional counter balance weight in the grip.
Bradley confirmed that he received the putter from Odyssey Tour rep Johnny Thompson at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation and tested it on the practice green early in the week. But with the exception of a few rounds with his buddies, the putter never saw the light of day until last week.
After discussing the switch with his mother, Phil Mickelson and the rest of his inner circle, Bradley said he finally came to the conclusion that it was time to give the putter a chance at the Memorial.
To get comfortable with the putter, Bradley said he spent last week testing it at home in Jupiter, Florida, playing 36 holes each day with basketball legend Michael Jordan.
"I told (Michael Jordan) I really wanted him to chirp at me, make me uncomfortable, which he's good at," Bradley said.
"And we just kept playing and playing. And I felt better and better with it. And I came here and not knowing what I was going to do, and I just played a round with Brendan Steele and I felt good with it again, and I thought there's no reason for me not to do it."
While the average pro typically makes a putter switch without thinking twice, Bradley said he tried his best to keep the switch under the radar for his own sanity.
"At this point right now I am aware people are watching and they're waiting to see how I do with it," Bradely said. "I thought my best chance was to get through this week and then in case if I did switch back to going I'm going to go belly, I didn't want to have to maybe explain why. I thought maybe I could sneak under."
Bradley's flawless round made the putter talk avoidable. Due to the USGA's anchored putting ban that's set to take effect in 2016, the 27-year-old has been in the spotlight since he became the first player to win a major championship (2011 PGA Championship) with a long putter.
Following the USGA's anchor decision last year, he went so far as to say the ruling wouldn't affect his putter plans in the short-term.
"To be honest with you, I'm not that worried about it," said Bradley told Tom LaMarre of The Sports Xchange at the beginning of the year, "A lot of people think I will be (affected by the switch), but I feel fine.
"It's disappointing, but the USGA makes the rules, so we've got to follow them. (Two) years to figure it out. But I'll be working every day (of the) offseason, trying to work something in."
For the most part, he's stuck to those comments. With the exception of a brief run with an Odyssey Jailbird belly putter earlier this year at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Bradley has been using same belly putter since 2010.
Due to the comfort level he had with the putter, Bradley noted that decision to let go of his trusty flatstick was difficult. However, after weighing the pros and cons, he figured now was as good a time as ever to give it a shot.
"One of the positives is I feel as though I have a lot more touch on the greens," Bradley said. "On a course like this or Augusta or any major championship that I play on, I felt like I've needed a little more touch than I've had. And so the positives of this putter are I can hit softer putts. My long lag putts are a ton easier.
And the negatives?
"And the negatives are just simple of mentally I'm aware that people are watching me. And that's the hardest part."
Even with a new putter in his hands and the golf world watching, Bradley made it look easy on Thursday.
Keegan Bradley drops a long birdie putt on No. 17 at the Memorial