If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Such is the saying in life, and also on the PGA Tour apparently. Ernie Els, who back in ’04 had the following to say about belly putters, “Nerves and the skill of putting are part of the game- Take a [pill] if you can’t handle it” now of course, putts with a belly putter (Els also in that interview went on to say that belly putters “should be banned”). As if Ernie now using an anchored flatstick wasn’t enough to spell Hypocrite with a capital “H,” Ernie has lashed out on everything equipment related in the game.
In a recent interview with The Scotsman, Ernie was quoted as saying, “Equipment advances have had a huge effect on the ability of anyone to separate himself from the rest. Everyone is custom-fitted these days. The belly putter helps people like me. The big-headed drivers mean that everyone hits it like only Greg Norman used to. You can even get clubs that will help you eliminate draws or fades. Guys are more educated about their own games. Course management is better. And so is fitness.” Whoa whoa whoa Ernie. I’m sure that Els was (or at least hopefully) being a little sarcastic when he said that everyone hits it like only Greg Norman used to, but even to joke like that is comical, mainly because the Big Easy, just like everyone else, does and uses everything that he just vented against.
There’s no question that technology has made an earth-shattering dent on the game today. 350-yard drives, 160-yard pitching wedges and spin galore from the rough all can be mainly attributed to advancements in technology (with other small portions of those gains being attributed to fitness, enhanced techniques, etc…). But, to say that players can’t separate themselves from the field like previously? And that everyone hits it like Norman? Ernie- let’s define your era as the past 20 years on Tour. In that time, there has been one and only one truly dominant player- El Tigre. To suggest that players used to separate themselves from the rest of the pack more so in the days of yore than today just flat out isn’t true. No names still win events, guys still struggle to hit fairways and perhaps most notably, careers are made and broken on the greens.
Ernie’s remedy for the game becoming “too easy?” For the game’s ruling bodies to scale back equipment, particularly for pros. “I look around now and see guys winning, guys who could never have done so 20 years ago,” he said. “Maybe we pros do need to have smaller drivers, less lofted wedges and a ball everyone must use.”
The ball does fly farther, players do have shorter clubs left into greens and some clubheads do resemble portable television sets on the end of a stick, but last I checked, distance control with irons (particularly wedges) still isn’t “free,” the ball still needs to check up but not over-spin on the greens and those putts still do need to find the bottom of the cup.
Until clubs come with a just-press-go button, sorry Ernie, you’re just golf’s biggest underachiever– a cranky, 42-year-old former 3-time major winner who can’t buy a putt to save his life. Even if that putt is stroked with a belly.