Golfweek’s Alex Miceli, currently in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions, has filed an interesting report on the growing resistance among exponents of anchored putting techniques to the idea of an equipment ban.
Some tour players, sensing their livelihoods at risk, are apparently willing to consider legal action in the event of a rules change.
Foremost among the would-be challengers is 2011 USPGA champion Keegan Bradley, the first player to win a major championship employing a longer-than-standard putter.
“I’m going to do whatever I have to do to protect myself and the other players on Tour [italics mine]… I look at it as a whole, as us all together. I don’t look at it as much about myself. I think that for them to ban this after we’ve done what we’ve done is unbelievable.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by Ernie Els, once a vocal critic of anchoring, who turned to the belly putter in recent seasons as a means of mitigating long-term putting problems.
The change worked out, of course, helping the South African to a fourth major championship, at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s earlier this summer.
“They’re going to have a couple of legal matters coming their way… It’s going to be a bit of an issue now. I’ve been against it, but since I’ve been using it, it still takes a lot of practice, and you have to perfect your own way of putting with this belly.”
Whether or not belly putters take getting used to seems immaterial; the question, surely, is whether or not using one elimates points of difficulty central to the performance of a traditional stroke?
On this subject, Tom Watson had something to say during a conference call with organisers of the Australian Open.
“I think what they’re going to do, and it is kind of common knowledge, is that the USGA and R & A are going to ban the anchoring of the putter on any part of the body…
“To me I have never felt the broomstick putter was a stroke of golf. I may be in the minority but one of the things you see in teaching golf here in America, is a lot of kids are being taught to use the long putter.” [The Australian]
Players at the WGC-HSBC Champions and next week’s Singapore Open will be encouraged to attend a seminar on the subject with a representative of golf’s governing bodies.
Mike Davis of the USGA has already conducted a similar meeting with the PGA Tour Policy Board, following which Davis Love III anticipated a defensive response from a number of his colleagues.
“I would be concerned, if I was them, because you’ve got a bunch of guys that are going to want to fight it. Not the Tour but the players individually. A bunch of players that aren’t going to like it.” [Golfweek]
“If they said today: ‘We met with the Tour [and] we’re going to change putters’, Keegan Bradley is going to get himself a conforming putter and he’s still going to be a really good putter. He’s just going to have to make a change, but you’d rather not talk about it for three years and have it be a distraction.” [Telegraph]
According to the Telegraph’s James Corrigan, the current consensus favours a ban, possibly following its ratification by vote in March of next year.
[For what it's worth: my objections to the belly putter, together with an outline of the issue, can be found here.]