DUBLIN, Ohio — Keegan Bradley started all of this.
Purists hit the roof when Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship, becoming the first major champion ever to do so with a long putter.
Golfers like Adam Scott, Ernie Els, and Webb Simpson would follow with major titles built, in part, by tall putters.
Before long, the guardians of the game had enough. The belly putter, or rather the way it is commonly used, will be banned starting in 2016.
Guys like Bradley use the added length to anchor the club against their bodies, creating a hinge effect. Soon, there will have to be a free swing of the entire club.
On Thursday, at the Memorial Tournament, Bradley became a free swinger for the first time in his PGA Tour career.
Bradley was discouraged with his 29th-place finish in the Byron Nelson Championship.
“I putted really poorly,” Bradley said. “I was actually talking to my mom, of all people, who is not what I’d call a huge golfer. And she said, ‘I’m going to tell you something and I don’t think you’re going to like it.’ I was like, all right. She said, ‘I think you should use the short putter.’”
So, during a week off back home in Florida, Bradley put it in the bag. He played several days with his friend, Michael Jordan, not to drop any names. They kept playing and playing and Bradley started feeling better and better with the short stick.
He came to Muirfield Village and “thought there’s no reason for me not to do it. I thought I could slip under the radar.”
Nice try. Bradley fired a 5-under 67 and was clustered among the early leaders before Rory McIlroy went low with a round of 63 that included two eagles and a double bogey in a five-hole stretch of the back nine.
Bradley’s day wasn’t as eventful, but he learned he just may like the short-putter concept.
“I feel as though I have a lot more touch on the greens,” he said. “On a course like this or Augusta or any major championship [course] that I play on, I felt like I’ve needed a little more touch than I’ve had. I can hit softer putts. My long lag putts are a ton easier.”
So, what are the cons?
“Mentally, I’m aware that people are watching me. And that’s the hardest part.”
Wait. Aren’t there people watching all the time?
“I think they’re waiting to see how I do with it,” he said. “I thought my best chance was to get through this week. I thought I could sneak under. It was mostly for my own sanity.”
Sounds a bit like over-thinking, eh?
“I over-think everything, so probably,” he said.
Bradley’s intent was to stick with the belly putter as his best bet at making the U.S. Ryder Cup team next September. Then, he would start the transition with 2016 drawing nearer and nearer.
But, just maybe, mother knew best.
“I think she knows, and people around me know, that it weighs on my mind,” Bradley said. “You’ve got almost like a ticking clock in your head. So I think she knew it might be a good idea.”
Three more rounds like his start at the Memorial and that ticking clock might be replaced by peace of mind.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.
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