DUBLIN, Ohio — Xander Schauffele is statistically one of the best putters on the PGA Tour. That didn’t stop him from changing this week to a different style — one he believes should be illegal.
Schauffele, the fifth-ranked player in the world, began practicing with a longer putter and using the armlock method just this week. He put it in play for the first round of the Memorial Tournament, shot 4-under-par 68 at Muirfield Village Golf Club and trails clubhouse leader Collin Morikawa by two strokes as play was suspended until Friday due to bad weather.
“My putting coach [Derek Uyeda], my whole team honestly, we’re very against change and I had to see what the craze was about,” said Schauffele. “I do feel funny, obviously being a top-10 putter on Tour, switching putters or the style of putting. It’s a distinct advantage.
“I am for banning the armlock putters, but if everyone else is going to use it and I feel like they have a bigger advantage, I may as well do the same.”
Schauffele said he lengthened the shaft of the same putter he’s been using and now presses the top part against his left arm and wrist and holds it with his right hand. Despite coming into the week ranked ninth on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting and 13th in total putting, he decided to make a change because he believes it can make him better.
“It’s easier; it’s more consistent,” he said. “My coach and I work a lot [at home] in San Diego on start lines and making sure the ball’s doing what we think it’s doing. And the fact that [the putter] is anchored to your arm…you can flinch in your hands, but you can’t flinch your entire left arm. So that’s the process behind that.”
In 2016, the United States Golf Association and the R&A banned anchoring, forcing numerous players to alter a style in which they anchored a putter to their stomach or a long putter to their chest. The clubs themselves weren’t banned, but the method was no longer allowed. The armlock method, however, is not outlawed — even though the club is still attached to a part of the body.
Among those of prominence who have used a variation of the method is Matt Kuchar.
“It takes the stress of putting out of the game,” Schauffele said. “Putting is so stressful. Obviously hitting shots and chipping and all kinds of stuff are difficult, but your putts are what give you the score on the card. It’s ruined a lot of people’s careers and it’s helped people’s career.
“So I think putting is an art in our game and when you lock it to your arm or anchor it to your body, it kind of gets rid of that.”
Schauffele made five birdies and just a single bogey on Thursday. He needed just 28 putts. He’s not completely comfortable with the new method, but felt good enough about it to use it relatively quickly.
“I know how good it can be and I think you still have to read putts and get the speed down correct,” he said. “I’m in a very similar setup compared to my old putter and I know I can putt with a shorter putter, so I figured if I can get an advantage on the greens, and maybe get to first in putting, that would be something special. So I’m going to give it a go.”