Sportswriters We Hate: Rick Reilly vs. The Belly Putter


Sportswriters We Hate is a series in which we mock some of today’s prominent sports writers, talking heads, radio hosts and whatever Darren Rovell is considered.  We get rather annoyed with these guys’ articles and tweets, and what better way to solve that than to mock them endlessly. 

Who do we hate today?

Rick Reilly


Rick Reilly is the reason you should hate sportswriters.  The man makes a seven figure salary to write the occasional “essay” on the back page of Sports Illustrated and now ESPN The Magazine (that still exists?).  Reilly’s “expertise” is golf and you’ll see him pop up during all four of the majors to give you a two-minute pun-laden featurette about god knows what.  He’s not even a reporter, but the one time he thought he had a scoop during a Monday Night Football game, he was caught on camera asking Stuart Scott’s wonky eye to give him credit for being “first on Twitter” with the story. What a douche.

Reilly’s latest article is full of complaints about the use of the belly putter in professional golf.  To say his plaid golf pants are in a bunch over this is an understatement. Rick Reilly is a clown.

People have been cheating with putters since before the birth of Mulligan.

I want to think there’s a joke in that sentence but I can’t get over how bad of a lede that is.

In a back room at USGA headquarters, I once found putters with firing pistons, putters with rubber-band faces, putters with mirrors so you can see the ball and the hole at the same time. Putters you plant in the ground and pull back like a pendulum, putters you lay behind, putters that stand up by themselves. Level-bubble putters, rolling-ball putters and drop-the-ball-down-the-rainspout putters. All now banned.


The one putter that wasn’t banned?


Which is why it’s crazy that one of the most flimflam ideas in putting since “good-good?” is still legal — the long putter.

Sigh. First of all, “good-good” is something we normal folk do at the public course.  You still have to putt the ball an inch out at the Masters.  ESPN paying Reilly millions of dollars to write a #WhitePeopleProbz article is the most flimflam idea EVER.

Secondly, I agree that the long putter should be banned.  However, leave it to Reilly to make me reconsider my stance.

If there is any sense in the world, that will all end very soon.

If there’s any sense in the world, your employment will end very soon too.

The long putter, aka the belly putter, aka the broomstick, aka the cheatstick, makes putting easier because you can anchor the butt end against your chest or your gut.

Aka the stick-meister, aka the putt-a-roonie, aka the golfinator, aka…[shoots self in the face]

That takes out half the variable in a putting stroke. It’s steroids with a leather handle.

Let me ask you:


If you could serve in tennis knowing the toss would be at the same spot every time, wouldn’t you? If you could shoot at a target range with the pistol bolted down, how much easier would it be? If a tailback could start on track blocks, wouldn’t he?

“If you could keep ALL minorities out of your country club, wouldn’t you? LORD KNOWS I WOULD. ‘CEPT FOR TIGER. That cat’s alright with me.”

Cheating is cheating, no matter how much Callaway makes on it.

Rick Reilly has cheated his employers out of money for 30 years.  You don’t see me writing stupid articles about it…oh wait…

And yet usually sensible humans like Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els are trying to talk the USGA and the Royal and Ancient out of doing the right thing: banning the act of “anchoring” a putter against the body. Those two governing bodies are poised to do that this spring. Meanwhile, the panicky PGA Tour’s policy board — which includes players and commissioner Tim Finchem — met via conference call Monday to decide whether they’ll:

A) go along with the ban, beginning in 2016.

B) ignore the ban, creating holy hell among the heavenly world powers of golf, or;

C) try to jerry-rig some mess that would allow amateurs like you and me to have them and pros like them not to, which is sort of like having separate road rules for cars vs. buses.

From reports of people on that call Monday, it looks like Finchem will be trying to sell C.

Finchem is better off trying to sell E.

“But I’d have a hard time with that,” Mickelson says. “If we start to play the game with a completely different set of rules — using balls that don’t go as far, grooves that spin less, and putters that aren’t as efficient — why would people come out and watch us?”

To boo you for five hours straight? I would absolutely go for that reason alone.

The pants?

No, all three organizations need to Ban Them or Keep Them, nothing in between.

In the Ban Them crowd: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Arnold Palmer, and people who love the game.


In the Keep Them crowd: Els, Keegan Bradley, and Webb Simpson

COMMUNISTS. Who hate golf with a passion but for some reason have devoted their lives to the game.

— who’ve won three of the past five majors using the scamstick — Bill Haas, who won the $10M FedEx Cup with one, and people who love their hedge funds.

Rick Reilly says rich, white people like the belly putter, AS IF HE ISN’T ONE OF THEM.

(Funny about Els. He’s telling everybody now there’s no evidence it helps. But when he switched to it, he laughed: “As long as it’s legal, I’ll cheat like the rest of them.”)

“I think Tim Finchem will back his players,” says Bradley, who hasn’t used a short putter since 2008. “I can play with it. [He won nine college tournaments with it.] But what about all of the regular Joes out there who just play for fun?

YEAH! Riles is just like us!

I get tweets all the time about it.


‘Keegan, I can’t lean that far over. I’ll have to quit the game.’ What are those people supposed to do?”


Reilly’s punchlines are just sarcastic questions.


The use of long putters is up 12 percent in the past three years for one reason: It makes it easier to putt. So do gimmes. Does Finchem want to allow them?

Other things that make it easier to putt:

  1. Picking the ball up and throwing it into the hole
  2. Being good at golf

Does he want to allow THEM too?

“But these things have been around 30 years,” Jim Furyk says. “It’s kinda late now to go backward.”

Couldn’t you say the same thing about steroids?

This isn’t even close to the same thing. Belly putters, although frowned upon, are not illegal. By comparing something as insignificant as a longer putter to an extreme like drugs, Reilly has succeeded in sucking at everything.

And, yes, USGA officials should’ve squelched the long putter when it was first popularized by Charles Owens in the early 1980s, but they let it slip. Perhaps they were busy watching “Diff’rent Strokes.”

 I don’t know. Not my problem.

This isn’t Reilly’s problem. He just chose to write 1,000 words bitching about it.

Just like it’s not my problem what somebody like touring pro Kevin Stadler will do without the long putter, which he’s used for 15 years straight.

“I literally can’t get it into the hole with a short putter,” he says. “The last time I used it [at USC], I averaged 37 putts a round. When I switched, the hole went from looking like a dime to a bucket. I have no idea what I’d do for a living without it.”


Are you f—ing kidding me?  Reilly’s “work” involves making terrible puns about golf and the most unfunny tweets imaginiable.

Look, golf is hard. Nobody knows that more than me.

Putting is hard because the stupid golf ball just sits there, not even moving.

Wait. That’s why it’s hard?

It’s the pressure, the nerves, the bets that make hitting it into the little hole so impossible.

Because professional golfers are CONSTANTLY making bets with their opponents.

Used to be a guy like Bernhard Langer would get the yips and retire to the broadcast booth. Now, he gets out the wonder wand and plays 20 more years.

Tour pro Carl Pettersson, who has used one exclusively for the past 16 years, told The AP’s Doug Ferguson, “It feels a bit like a witch hunt to me.”

Have you seen Carl Pettersson? He’s currently on his own sand-witch hunt.


He’s right. It IS a witch hunt. Because long putters make you putt like a witch.

Remember, this man is getting paid more than you and I combined to write s*** like that.

Anchoring the putter is cheating, same as Vaseline on the club face or “Gimme a circle 4.”

Because lord knows Rick Reilly has never cheated at golf in his life.

“Wait,” asks CBS’ Jim Nantz, “You want to ban anchoring?”

No, dude. You’re fine.

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