Before Rocco Mediate became famous for losing to Tiger Woods in the 2008 U.S., the six-time winner on the PGA Tour might have best as the father of the long putter. Okay, maybe not the “father” of the long stick – Bruce Lietzke used a long putter before him. But Mediate was the first player to win with a long putter on Tour – the Doral-Ryder Open in 1991.
Mediate used a 49-inch putter with Ping B90 head in his victory at Doral. He’s been using a Titleist Scotty Cameron Big Sur putter head the past several years. The 49-inch shaft has stayed in his bag for most of the past 21 years, although Mediate’s last Tour victory – the Frys.com Open in 2010 – was with a standard length putter. He’s switched back and forth between the long putter and standard the past couple of years.
“Back in 1991 I was the anti-Christ,” Mediate told me shortly before appearing at The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card from J.P. Morgan outing this weekend at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples (Fla.). “Now everyone is using long betters.”
Well, not everyone. Woods and Ernie Els are among those who have expressed their contempt for long putters and belly putters. Conversely, rising stars such as Keegan Bradley and Adam Scott have embraced the long sticks. Golf’s ruling bodies – the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrew’s, Scotland – have thus far stood by and watched to each side.
Neither has indicated if it is willing to rule on length or the so-called “anchoring” of the putters. And that’s fine with Mediate.
“It’s a lot easier on your back,” said Mediate, whose back problems nearly ended his career in 1999. “And it’s not illegal.”
Mediate was quick to point out, however, don’t mistake long and belly putters being “easier on the back” as being easier to use.
“There are no gimmies,” Mediate said. “If it was that easy, everyone would do it. You still have to make the ball go where you want it to go.”