SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (Reuters) - So far, so good for Keegan Bradley, who four months ago traded a belly putter for a conventional one in a bid to prepare himself for a major change to be implemented by golf’s rulemakers at the end of this year.
As of Jan. 1, 2016, the Royal & Ancient and United States Golf Association will ban long putters being anchored to the body, forcing Bradley to ditch a method he has employed for all three of his PGA Tour wins, including the 2011 PGA Championship.
On Thursday, Bradley wielded the shorter putter to great effect as he fired a six-under-par 65 to end the opening round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open just one stroke off the pace set by compatriot Ryan Palmer.
“Feels so good to go out and play a really solid round tee to green,” Bradley told reporters after piling up seven birdies and a lone bogey.
“Made a bunch of putts, which feels good. It’s a relief to go out and shoot a good number in the first round.”
Bradley first used a short putter at the Memorial tournament in late May last year before switching back to the longer version. He then ditched the belly putter after the Ryder Cup in September and has not used it since.
“It’s so very much a work in progress,” said the 28-year-old, whose most recent PGA Tour victory came at the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
“I’m nervous every round I go out, because it’s new to me. I haven’t played a lot of tournaments with the short putter. It’s different. It would be like if I stuck a belly putter with one of the guys that’s never used it.
“I know I’m going to have good days and bad days, but with every round I play, I feel more and more comfortable.”
Bradley was thrilled to play in front of massive galleries at the TPC Scottsdale where a tournament record for the opening round of more than 118,000 swarmed the course.
“It was crazy,” he said.
Bradley was bemused, though, when very few fans watched him play his final hole — until he realized that most of them had switched to monitor Tiger Woods, who had a much later tee time.
“It’s just amazing to see the draw that Tiger has. Wow, there were a lot of people,” he said.
Editing by Peter Rutherford