Tipping point: R&A, USGA target long putters
By Conor Nagle under Equipment

Ernie Els’ Open Championship victory appears to have reinvigorated the debate surrounding the use of so-called “belly putters”.

Speaking in the wake of the South African’s victory at Royal Lytham, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson suggested the sport’s governing bodies were poised to take definitive action in the interest of resolving the long-running controversy.

Reuters’ Tom Pilcher was on hand to collect the quotage:

“The situation is that the R&A and the USGA do have this subject firmly back on the radar… I think you’re going to see us saying something about it one way or the other in a few months rather than years.”

In securing an improbable victory in Lancashire, Els, a conflicted exponent of the anchoring technique (the 42-year-old has branded it a form of cheating), became the third player in under a year to win a major championship using a longer-than-standard putter.

Coming after a decades-long drought, the current deluge of long-putter-wielding major champions has alarmed those charged with safeguarding the game.

Formerly the preserve of nervous veterans and senior citizens, the clubs have gained in popularity of late among touring professionals anxious to manufacture a repetitive putting action.

It’s a development that has frustrated a number of high-profile players, among whom can be numbered 14-time major champion Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington.

Indeed, the Irishman believes institutional complacency is to blame for the current dilemma.

“If somebody invented the belly putter tomorrow, it would not pass. I think we could all agree with that. The only reason it got through is the people that used it 20 years ago were coming to the end of their careers.

“People would have been sympathetic and didn’t want to finish Bernhard Langer’s career by telling him you can’t hold it like this.”

  • For a fairly thorough stating of the case against long putters, click HERE.
  • For Tiger Woods’ views on the issue, click HERE.

Conor Nagle