NOT for the first time in his career rookie professional Bryson DeChambeau caused a stir last week when he employed a side-saddle putting method at the Franklin Templeton Shootout in California.
But DeChambeau isn’t the first high profile professional to tinker with face-on putting and if he continues to use it, and succeeds, he won’t be the first elite golfer to have done so.
That honour belongs to California native Randy Haag, an accomplished career amateur who has more than 150 significant titles to his name, more than 100 of them won since switching to the front-on method 20 years ago.
Haag is an eight time Club Champion at the prestigious Olympic Club in San Francisco and has qualified for multiple US Senior and British Senior Open championships.
He made the switch to the front-on style after the 1996 US Amateur when his putting yips reached a point where he felt he could no longer play.
Having given up the chance to play a practice round with Tiger Woods for fear of embarrassing himself in front of the large crowds following the young phenom that year, an incident in the first round finally convinced him.
“I hit this beautiful drive and 5-iron into about three feet and I got up over this three-footer and I could tell even before I pulled it back that it was going to be a problem,” he recalls.
“I pulled the putter back and on the way through I think this putter contorted all the way and I hit the ball somewhere with the back side of the putter and the ball literally just went sideways.
“I then proceeded to miss the one-footer that I had left. I just decided that enough was enough and I needed to make a change otherwise the game just wasn’t fun for me any more.”
Haag says he knew ‘five or six’ other high level golfers in California who were using the front-on method at the time and he decided he, too, would make the switch.
However, he warns those considering a similar path that it is not a miracle cure.
“It’s not a quick fix,” he says, “and that’s what people have to understand.
“This is a technique that requires a real dedication to learning how to do it properly.”
Of his own move to the method he says he committed from the outset regardless of early results.
“I just said ‘I’m going to commit myself to this and I don’t care how many four putts I have, I don’t care how many three putts I have, I’m going to stick to this until I become proficient at it’,” he says.
“Otherwise I was going to have to leave the game, unfortunately.”
Haag, who has a popular blog at www.randyhaag.com where he writes regularly about the method as well as a YouTube channel with several instruction videos, says most people find adjusting to both aiming putts and gauging distance with long putts the most difficult part of the process.
“The first time someone tries it they are always aiming well right,” he says.
“I tell people that the first time they will always miss the putt to the right. Once you’re over that, though, the shorter ones get easier pretty quickly.
“But it does take a while to adjust to those longer putts, especially if they go up and over slopes and things like that.”
Haag says he believes DeChambeau, who he knows personally and hopes to work with on some videos for his YouTube channel in future, will be the first player to win a tournament with the method.
“I first met Bryson when he was 6 years old in his backyard,” says Haag, “and I’ve taken a keen interest in his career.
“He’s obviously one of the most unusual or unorthodox players or whatever words you want to use to describe him but I think he’s one of the most interesting golfers certainly in the world right now and I think he will prove to be one of the best players in the world.
“I do predict that Bryson will be the first player to win putting side saddle and I think that it will open up a whole new revolution of players.”
THE WEEK IN GOLF CHECKS OUT BRYSON'S DECHAMBEAU'S UNIQUE BAG AND SWING: