by Jeff Skinner
Ernie Els has always been a straight shooter. While many golfers are hesitant about speaking their mind, Els has a reputation for being honest and direct. He was the first golfer to stop hemming and hawing about Tiger’s ability a dozen years ago and said it quite plainly, Tiger is just better than us he said then.
Now he has come out and used the dreaded “C” word. There are two C words in golf and both will send out shock waves whenever they are used. Johnny Miller likes to use “choke” when he needs a bit of excitement during an NBC telecast. But Ernie Els isn’t a choker; he’s a cheater, at least by his own definition.
Els has recently switched to a long (belly) putter in an attempt to get his putting game back on track. He was a long time critic of the longer putter and thought they had no place in golf. That thought hasn’t changed but he’ll still use one.
“As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them” Els said at the Frys.com Open.
“Right now I’m glad they haven’t banned it” Els said as he plans to keep using the belly putter for awhile. “Guys can have a laugh at me, that’s fine I’ve done it to them. It is what it is. And until they ban it, you know, we can use it.”
He’s absolutely right, it’s cheating. I’ve gone back and forth on this topic but I’ve concluded that there is something wrong about those long putters. Tom Watson has been outspoken about this saying that using a long putter is not a golf swing. Anchoring the club against your body, whether it’s your belly, chest or chin isn’t a natural swing, at least that’s what many believe.
I tend to side with that thought. It seems contrary to the traditions of the game. You swing the club with your arms, hips, shoulders and all the rest of your body. This talk of “pivot point and fulcrum” has no relation to a traditional swing.
I agree with Ernie wholeheartedly, it’s cheating. But it isn’t illegal. Until the USGA and the R&A take some action, if they ever do, the long putters will be a source of controversy. It’s not too late to pass some rule that would outlaw the broomsticks. They did it with square grooves and every professional was playing those at the time. So for those that think “it’s too late, so many golfers are using them” think again. The USGA banned a club that was in every professional’s bag. It happened once, it can happen again.
Until then Els and the rest will continue to play them. Remember, like Ernie says, it may be cheating but it’s not illegal.