The popular ”strokes gained” statistic was not introduced until four years ago, although the PGA Tour has data to track putting performances dating to 2004. Tiger Woods was No. 2 that year, followed by Brad Faxon and Steve Stricker. All have reputations as being great putters.
So it’s worth noting, statistically, who was the No. 1 putter in 2004 – Adam Scott.
And that’s why Scott is bemused, and a little irritated, when he’s often cited among players facing an uncertain future when the ban on anchored strokes used for long putters starts on Jan. 1.
”People don’t like facts? It’s a good starting point to an opinion – a fact,” said Scott, with a grin. ”Maybe because me changing to a long putter was quite a drastic change. Maybe that’s why it got a lot of attention. Beats me. I’ve tried to downplay it the whole time. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal going back to the short putter.”
He switched to the long putter at the Match Play Championship in 2011, contended for the first time at the Masters two months later, nearly won the British Open the following year and then became the first Australian to win the Masters in 2013.
What often gets overlooked is that Scott won 18 times worldwide before switching to the long putter, including The Players Championship and the Tour Championship. He has won seven times in five years with the long putter.
Scott refers to 2015 as a ”transition” year, yet when he talked about change – a daughter, a new caddie, tinkering with equipment – his putting was almost an afterthought.
What might have hurt him this year was putting so poorly. He started with a short putter, only to switch back to the longer putter before the Masters. The change back to a short putter for good began at the Presidents Cup. He had one match where he missed everything, and a Sunday singles rout of Rickie Fowler when he made everything.
”I think the focus on putting is probably the least impactful thing,” he said. ”I haven’t had the consistency with my striking this year because it’s one of those things where when your putting suffers, eventually it catches up with your ball striking.”
Tim Clark and Carl Pettersson have used long putters their entire careers, and Clark used it all the way to the end of 2015. Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley, who used belly putters their entire PGA Tour careers, went to a short putter at the end of 2014. Both now are well out of the top 50.
KOEPKA’S LONG BREAK: Brooks Koepka, who rarely describes his personality without mentioning the word ”chill,” should be plenty rested by the time the Florida swing starts on Feb. 25 with his hometown event at the Honda Classic.
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Koepka will have played three tournaments during a three-month stretch.
He missed the cut in Las Vegas on Oct. 23. He didn’t play again until the Hero World Challenge. He will tee it up at Kapalua at the start of the year. And he will defend his title in the Phoenix Open.
”I love golf,” he said. ”But not every single day.”
He didn’t touch a club from Las Vegas until a week before going to the Bahamas and said he felt excited, a feeling he had not had since after the PGA Championship. That’s understandable considering Koepka played 13 times in a 16-week stretch from the Scottish Open through Las Vegas. Part of that was the FedEx Cup schedule, along with his bid to make the Presidents Cup team.
”You take time off when you can,” Koepka said. ”All we try to do is have everything click at the beginning of April. That’s when you want your game to peak.”
DIVOTS: Fifteen players are expected to be added to the 2015 Masters when the world ranking is finalized next week. The only tournament on the schedule is the Philippine Open, which will not affect the top 50. Lee Westwood reached No. 50 with his tie for second in the Thailand Open last week. … The Copperhead course at Innisbrook is open again after a six-month restoration project that involves re-grassing all the fairways and rough, rebuilding each green and reshaping the bunkers. Jordan Spieth is to defend his title at Innisbrook in the Valspar Championship on March 10-13. … Keith Hansen of Providence, Utah, who has worked as a rules official at more than 80 USGA championships, has been selected to receive the 2016 Joe Dey Award for volunteer service to the USGA. He will receive the award Feb. 6 at the USGA’s annual meeting in San Diego.