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Don't take away my long putter

There's talk again about banning long putters, which, I assume, includes belly putters.

This talk undoubtedly springs from the burst of success long putters are enjoying in tournament golf. Keegan Bradley recently became the first player to win a major championship with one of them when he stroked his way to the PGA title. His win was one in a streak of victories by players wielding the oversized clubs.

There's been disagreement since the first person showed up with what we call a broomstick. It's not in the spirit of golf, some argued, and I was one of them. Golf always had been played with a putter that was essentially the same length as the rest of the clubs in the bag. Golf's governors should have banned the long ones right then but didn't and at this late date, I'm glad.

It may not be too late but if they're going to rule against those putters because they give some players an advantage then they should also rule against drivers with big heads and adjustable weights and against golf balls that add length and reduce slicing and hooking.

If long putters offer an advantage, it's an advantage available to everyone, like the tricked-out drivers and the golf balls.

But the primary reason they should be left alone is that they keep a lot of players in the game who simply can't deal with a short putter, players for whom the yips are as real as pain. Using long putters doesn't necessarily make them better putters than people who use the shorter ones, they just restore the ability to putt without having to deal with nerves that ruin the stroke.

The surge of success the long ones have enjoyed after making only rare appearances over the years, except on the Champions Tour, is surprising. It was probably sparked by Adam Scott's successful switch. Others who had been wrestling the shorter ones decided to give it a try and found that it works, and they no longer feel self-conscious about it.

I often use a long putter. Sometimes I use a short one. And I'm currently learning to use a belly putter. You can ask anybody with whom I play and they will tell you that they don't feel I'm taking advantage of them. In fact, they would probably laugh at the suggestion.

In the spirit of the game? No, but I don't improve my lie in the rough, don't lie about my score, don't magically find my lost ball, don't ground my club in a hazard and don't cough when my opponent is putting, so I think I'm probably OK with the golf gods on this.

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