Kuchar takes on Faldo as belly putter wars heat up; Mahan spells putting relief N-O-M-E

After a drubbing in the quarter-finals of the Accenture Match Play Championship, Matt Kuchar takes a swing at Nick Faldo for his anti-belly putter comments (Photo: Wikipedia)

While Tiger Woods’ poor putting con­tin­ues to be the talk of the Accen­ture Match Play Cham­pi­onship — despite his second-round loss to Nick Wat­ney on Thurs­day — Hunter Mahan’s flaw­less work on the greens had gone some­what unno­ticed until he blitzed Matt Kuchar, 6&5, in an early quarter-final con­test on Saturday.

Kuchar, mean­while, was none too pleased with Nick Faldo’s recent diss­ing of belly put­ters and told him so after almost single-handedly sav­ing the big bat from ban­ish­ment. The only thing that might take the sting out of the world’s 14th-ranked golfer’s lack­lus­ter play on Jack Nick­laus’ Ritz-Carlton Golf Club out­side Tuc­son was “just get a good punch right in the back of Nick Faldo,” he said with a laugh on his lips that didn’t quite make it up to his usu­ally sparkling eyes. “I think that’s the only way I’d really feel bet­ter right now.”

The mild-mannered Geor­gia Tech grad took Faldo to task for anti-belly com­ments he made dur­ing a Fri­day night round-table con­fab with fel­low ana­lysts Johnny Miller and Bran­del Cham­blee. He also said his play Sat­ur­day should con­vince the haters that long sticks afforded golfers no unfair advantages.

“I made a real good case of no rea­son to out­law the belly put­ter,” Kuchar told NBC’s Jimmy Roberts after mak­ing five bogeys in his abbre­vi­ated 13-hole tilt with Mahan. “I was ter­ri­ble with the belly put­ter today. I prob­a­bly made a case for not out­law­ing it. It was a rough day.”

It was the oppo­site for Mahan, who played his way into the tourney’s semi-final round for the first time, thanks in no small part to a new flat stick that he added to his bag on Monday.

“I felt like my stroke was pretty good [last week at the North­ern Trust Open],” Mahan told NBC Sports’ Jimmy Roberts fol­low­ing Saturday’s thrash­ing of Kuchar. “I went to this put­ter that’s a lit­tle bit off­set. It’s called a Nome, a Ping Nome. Boy, it feels really good in my hands. I just have a lot of con­fi­dence with it right now.”

Ping has put the new putter in the hands of PGA Tour golfers in the past few weeks and expects to make it available to the public in April.

Ear­lier in the week, Mahan spelled it out for observers who may have missed his pitch for his new BFF.

“I switched put­ters this week to the Ping Nome — N‑o‑m‑e, no G,” Mahan told reporters after thump­ing Steve Stricker, 4&3, in Friday’s third round. “This one has a lit­tle less off­set and it’s help­ing me aim better.”

Because he had been aim­ing more to the left than he believed he was, Mahan said he was “push­ing” his putts and not get­ting a “true” roll or read.

“I hit great last week, but I couldn’t make any­thing,” he said of the event in which he ended up ranked 20th in strokes gained-putting. “So I switched put­ters this week, and I have just a lot of con­fi­dence where I’m start­ing the ball.”

Despite the tricky greens that drove Woods to dis­trac­tion — and even­tu­ally to the air­port for an early depar­ture — Mahan was pleased with how he was read­ing the grain and the speed of his short strokes.

“On all my putts I’ve been able to cozy it up to the hole, and inside of 15 feet I’ve been able to be aggres­sive,” he said. “Some­times you have a good sense of the greens, and some­times you don’t.  Last week I had no sense of the greens and missed every­thing. But for some rea­son this week I feel confident…whenever I get on the green I’m going to make it.  It’s a good feel­ing to have right now.”

Not so much for Kuchar, who couldn’t jar a thing Sat­ur­day with the type of wand favored by PGA champ Kee­gan Bradley, and a gag­gle of other golfers — and one that Faldo, et al, would like to see golf’s gov­ern­ing bod­ies add to their endangered-species list.

“It’s called a golf swing, not a golf anchor,” Faldo said dur­ing Golf Channel’s “State of the Game” show with Miller, Cham­blee, and Dan Hicks. “If the ama­teurs — for the enjoy­ment of the game, let them do what­ever they like. But for pro­fes­sion­als, I think we should start look­ing at all our rules, or quite a few on the equip­ment, like the size of the dri­ver face.”

Cham­blee chimed in with his oppo­si­tion to the elon­gated ham­mer. “I’m glad [USGA chief exec­u­tive] Mike Davis is look­ing at the anchor put­ter,” he said. “I am all for two sets of rules for a vari­ety of rea­sons, not the least of which is elim­i­nat­ing the long put­ter in the pro­fes­sional ranks.”

And so the belly-putter war rages on — despite Kuchar’s best efforts to put it to rest.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)