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The Masters: A Win for the Aussies, a Win for the Long Putter

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COMMENTARY | Late Sunday night, Adam Scott reared back his head, shook his fists and belted out, "C'mon, Aussie!"

The putt he had just buried -- a 20-foot-or-so sidewinder on 18 that has been the fate of so many Masters tournaments -- would turn out to be his ticket to two extra sudden-death holes with Angel Cabrera and his first green jacket as, again, he put one dead center of the cup on the 10th to top El Pato.

It was, for obvious reasons, a win for his country, which had been devoid of a Masters champion, suffering from the curse of Greg Norman for so many well-documented years. But it was also another momentous win for the tool Scott had used to close it out: the oft-maligned and much-ridiculed long putter.

Ever since a relative unknown -- at the time -- named Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship in 2011, becoming the first player to win a major with the long stick, the ridiculous-looking yet frighteningly effective putter has overrun the tour. With Scott claiming the Masters on April 14, four of the past six major winners have used one. Webb Simpson managed not to collapse in the 2012 U.S. Open with his; Ernie Els won his fourth major championship and second Open Championship with his come-from-behind victory in 2012; and now Scott.

Scott's broomstick-style putter produced no miracles when it was he who fell apart at the 2012 Open Championship, bogeying the final four holes and paving the way for the Big Easy. But look at the Adam Scott of old, prior to his switch to the long putter, and the Adam Scott we witnessed birdie three of his last six holes -- the putter playing an awfully critical role in each of them -- in regulation before pouring in another on the second hole of sudden death to win his first of what we can only expect to be many majors.

The consistent thing about Adam Scott the 23-year-old Players Championship winner -- the youngest to win the event -- and Adam Scott the 32-year-old first-time major winner is his swing. It's perfect in every single aspect. It always has been. His putting stroke, however, did that fresh-snow-powder-pure swing zero justice.

In 2010, he ranked 186th in strokes gained putting with the shorter sibling of his current flat stick. Does he win a Masters putting like that? No. Does he hole that 20-footer on 18 to send it to sudden death? No. Do his last eight cuts made in major championships go like this -- T2, T25, 7, T8, T15, 2, T11, winner -- without the switch? I can't imagine it would. His game was so off kilter with a normal putter that he hadn't cracked the top 10 in a major in four straight years. That's 16 consecutive majors -- five of which he missed the cut in -- without a top 10 finish. In nine starts with the long putter, he has five top 10s and a green jacket.

And it's not just Scott. Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer, both green jacket owners, opted for the stretched out version of the club and both made unexpected charges to the top of the leaderboard. Young Tianlang Guan, 14, became the youngest player to make a cut in a major with the long putter in the bag.

Now, the belly putter isn't for everybody, just as Titleist drivers or Nike irons aren't for everybody. Some players, say, Cabrera, scoff at the idea that it gives an unfair advantage. Tiger Woods has toyed with it in practice and hated it. Rory McIlroy not only won both of his majors -- 2011 U.S. Open, 2012 PGA Championship -- without it, he decimated the field by eight strokes in each without it.

"If it really is an advantage, why don't everybody play it?" Cabrera said after finishing runner-up to Scott. "So, you know, I'm just happy for him."

An advantage? Maybe not. A winning resume? Absolutely.

Travis Mewhirter has been working in the golf industry since 2007, when he was a bag room manager at Piney Branch Golf Club in Carroll County, Maryland, and has been involved, as a player, since 2004. Since then, he has worked at Hayfields Country Club, where the Constellation Energy Classic was formerly held, and has covered golf at the high school, college, and professional levels.

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