Practise it … Adam Scott with his short putter. Photo: Brendan Esposito
FOR the first time, and not even a week since golf officials moved a step closer to banning the anchoring of clubs, Australia's top-ranked player Adam Scott showed off what might be his way into a future without the broomstick putter.
During 12 holes of practice at The Lakes, before this week's Australian Open, Scott used a shorter putter which was not anchored to his body - in line with rules which are set to be introduced in 2016. While it remains to be seen whether Scott continues to trial his new putting method during this week's tournament, the fact he practised exclusively with the shorter putter suggests he is seriously considering it.
A week ago, the Royal and Ancient and US Golf Association foreshadowed the banning of the anchoring of clubs in 2016 - effectively making ''belly'' and ''broomstick'' putters illegal. And while Scott has suggested before he would continue to use the broomstick putter into next year, his 12 holes with Tom Watson on Tuesday showed he was preparing for life after the broomstick.
The Australian Masters champion was not available to comment after his practice hit, but had said recently of the proposed changes: ''My opinion is that the governing bodies are in place to protect the integrity of the game, not the traditions of the game.
''It is a different method that some people find more comfortable and others don't. There are no facts to say that you will make more putts putting with an anchored putter.''
The putter Scott used was much shorter than his broomstick, but still longer than a regulation club, with a large grip and with the same club head he has used previously. Scott used a clawgrip for his right hand, and was believed to be attempting to position his body at the same angle as he had with the broomstick putter, but with his putter clearly separated from his body.
His practice partner on Tuesday, the American veteran Watson, threw his support behind the moves to ban anchoring.
''I agree [with the decision],'' Watson said. ''I say that with mixed emotions. [It] is not a stroke of golf but it makes it easier to play. My son Michael, with a conventional putting stroke, could not make it from two feet half the time. He went to a belly putter and he makes everything.
''[But] I thought Ernie Els said it perfectly when he won last year's Open Championship.
''He was asked why he went to the long putter and he said he was cheating like the rest of them.''
Scott will play the opening two rounds with Englishman Justin Rose, the world No. 4, with tournament organisers hoping the marquee pairing of the two top 10 ranked players will be a significant drawcard. With organisers unable to attract the big names of last year's tournament - when top American players including Tiger Woods played - much will rest on the performances of the high-profile pair.
Golf Australia's chief executive Stephen Pitt said organisers hoped to attract world No. 1 Rory McIlroy to future Open tournaments.
''He's someone that we'd always love to bring out to Australia,'' Pitt said. ''We had some discussions [this year], but there were always problems around scheduling. You battle that.''
Asked about the field for this year's tournament, which is lacking in major drawcards, Pitt said: ''It's not as strong as last year, but it's still, in our view, a really quality field. You can get caught up in comparing it to last year, but last year was … it's a really happy circumstance when you host the President's Cup, but you know that on average, you're going to have them about one in every 10 or 20 years.
''I guess in golf, there are a small number of players who have that sort of appeal, and you always want to attract those … But this year, it's been a really crowded schedule. Given those circumstances, we're really happy with the field, and we think it'll be a great event.''