OPINION: You have to feel so sorry for Adam Scott. He limped to a belittling defeat and now they want to kick the crutch away.
The Australian is a sublime talent but he has always teetered on the edge of his nerves. His short game has cost him many a major and then his coach persuaded him to adopt the long putter. Suddenly Scott went from pretender to contender.
But the Royal and Ancient has had enough of the belly putters and the broom handles. Ernie Els, the man who beat Scott at the British Open yesterday, became the third man to win with a long putter in the last four majors and the R&A now wants to ban them. The irony is that Els once described these implements as tantamount to cheating.
Els berated his countryman Trevor Immelman for using one and, at the time, you suspected he would rather retire than sink so low. But, when you miss as many putts as the South African did in the hangover of his middle career, your view of the world becomes a little more forgiving.
The governing bodies should also be a bit more compassionate. If they do ban the long putter, does it cheapen the major victories of Els, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley?
It would certainly not be fair on that trio, who were only playing by the rules of the time.
And what of the amateur golfer? If the R&A is true to form, it will impose a one-year moratorium on the professional game and a 10- year moratorium on the amateurs. How many tortured souls, who just play the game for fun, have found salvation in the long putter. Are they to be tossed back into purgatory in 2022.
It is a tough decision. Critics argue that the long putter anchors the club to the body, whereas the game of golf has traditionally been a free swing of the arms. Golf is a game of nerves and the long putter goes a long way to assuaging those nerves. Great putters such as Steve Stricker could say that they are having their skill advantage unjustly reduced.
The very game of golf puts the decision in context. This was a brutal Open championship that literally brought Tiger Woods to his knees in the final round. Earlier in the championship, Luke Donald, the highest-ranked player in the world, skulled a ball with his wedge, straight through the green and into an unplayable lie.
Paul Lawrie, a former Open champion, batted putts back and forth on the final green of his third round. Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, hit a flat duck hook from the middle of the fairway, searched in gorse, then suffered the ignominy of a buggy ride back to where he started.
Poor Robert Karlsson did not even make it on to the golf course. The big Swede found himself unable to take the club back during a practice round. He was consoled for 10 minutes by Sergio Garcia, a man who has had his own problems with gripping and re-gripping the club. Donald's caddie said: “It was probably the worst case you've ever seen and I felt so sad for Robert."
Well, you would, wouldn't you? Karlsson is not your normal professional tour golfer. He has tried everything. He has stayed up all night practising his putting while a mate shouted abuse every time he missed. He has relived the moment he came into the world, apparently subconsciously forcing himself through the birth canal for a second time.
It's not easy being a pro golfer. The previous man to win the Open at Lytham, David Duval, suffered a massive letdown and retreated from the world. So should we take pity on these tortured souls and let them use putters that relieve some of the angst?
Golf is full of demons. Just ask Michael Campbell. On one glorious June afternoon in North Carolina, he was good enough to win the US Open with Tiger snarling at his back. A week later he said to me in a hotel room in Brighton: “Commentators, my peers, my caddie all say, ‘When you're in the groove no-one can stop you'. I need to get in that bubble every time I play. But it's impossible. The mind gets you in trouble all the time. This thing between your ears, mate, it's not very good for golf."
The demons had come for Campbell before and they came for him again.
Craig Perks, a thoroughly decent man, won the 2002 Players Championship. Five years later, he was a self-confessed 36-handicapper mentally. He said: “It was so bad, I played every practice round by myself. I was that embarrassed. My game was a shambles. On Tuesday I could get along OK. Then on Wednesdays I could feel apprehension building. By Thursday, for the first round, I couldn't get myself to the first tee. I was shot, done over.”
Good God, it's supposed to be a game. Watching Adam Scott disintegrate over the final four holes will have reminded Australia of Greg Norman's collapse at the Masters. Norman proved himself quite a man after that loss and I suspect Scott, a true sportsman, will do the same.
But the game of golf has tortured Scott in the past. He once gave it up for a few months and now retires to the surf to get away from it all. Does the R&A really want to toss him back on the bonfire of his own insecurity after suffering such a loss? I do not envy them the decision.
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