TOWN AND COUNTRY, Mo. — It was 1989, and Peter Senior was struggling with his putting at the Italian Open. He was paired with Sam Torrance, who was using a bizarre new long-shafted putter that he anchored under his chin, and for two rounds Senior watched Torrance hole almost everything.
Senior ran into Torrance again on the putting green a few weeks later at the British Masters at Woburn and asked his colleague if he had a spare long putter. Torrance did. He gave Senior a few tips on how to use it. Senior practiced with it quite a bit, but he stuck with his regular putter in the first round and shot 74. "I wasn't yippy or anything," he recalled on Thursday. "I was just putting badly."
Senior switched to the broomstick putter the next day.
"I shot 66," he said. "I thought maybe that was a bit flukey. The next day, I shot 66 with it again. It's been in the bag ever since."
It was there on Thursday for the first round of the Senior PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club, where Senior fired a three-under-par 68. That left him two back of early leader Jay Haas.
Two years ago, Senior quit anchoring it under his chin and started anchoring it against his chest. "I was putting so badly, I said I've got to change something," he said. "So I cut it down three inches."
Add Senior to the list of players who aren't thrilled by this week's announcement that anchored putting will be banned in January, 2016. It's funny how senior golfers were strangely quiet during most of the 90-day discussion period while the USGA and the R&A considered their options. Maybe that was an illusion, maybe it was just because senior golfers don't get much in the way of mainstream media coverage.
Long-time yipper and alternative putter Bernhard Langer was always opposed to the proposed ban. He's all but worn out talking about it.
"Well, I can't express my thoughts in five minutes," Langer said. "I'm somewhat surprised … after this many years of having the long putter out there. Who is using the big-headed driver? Everybody. Who is using the hybrid? Everybody. Who is using the ball that goes 300 yards? Everybody. Why? Because they're an advantage for everybody.
"Who's using the long putter? Ten or 12 percent of the players? I guess it's not an advantage; otherwise everybody would use it. That's all I have to say."
Senior is an easy-going Australian who has won tournaments all over the world, including four on the European Tour and just about everything worth winning in Australia. He'll turn 54 this summer. Like Langer, he was mildly surprised that the governing bodies took action against his putting technique.
"I spoke to Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and they said, the gear has to be looked at before anything else — the driver and the ball," Senior said. "The equipment has gone way beyond where it should be. It's made the game easy for these long hitters."
Senior has never been a big hitter. He has always ranked among the game's better ballstrikers, though. The long putter made him competitive on the greens.
"I thought there was enough friction from everybody to delay a decision for a bit," Senior said. "After what Tim Finchem and Keegan Bradley and a few others said, I thought the USGA might say, 'We'll have a look and not do anything about it now.' But they seem pretty adamant about it."
Enforcement of the ban could be tricky, Senior believes. He wonders what will happen when he's wearing a bulky jacket; even if he has his putter set up away from his chest, it might still appear to be anchored. "There are going to be people [phoning] in," he said. "They'll be saying, 'He had it anchored, he had it anchored.' It's going to open a can of worms. They're going to need an official with every group and one at every green checking each player's putting stroke."
Senior isn't worried about it. He practices at home with a short putter and believes he wouldn't have any problem going back to a conventional-length model. "Putting is feel," he said. "There is no secret. You've got to aim it, read the break and hit it there."
Senior's concern is that if the anchored ban is enforced for amateurs, he'll lose some of his recreational playing partners. "A few of my mates at home, it's the only reason they still play golf," he said. "There's no enjoyment in golf if you can't putt and you've got 42 or 44 putts. It's like a battle out there. These guys just won't play."
Senior will just keep moving forward, as he always has. As long as the rules are the same for everyone, he said, he's fine with any changes.
Asked if he made the governing bodies aware of his opinion during the 90-day discussion period, Senior scowled. "Naw," he said. Then he laughed and added, "Another three years and I'll be finished, anyway.