Dec
2
2012
USGA scolds unnamed fan for calling Keegan Bradley a “cheater”
By Stephanie Wei under Rules

Beware the belly. It can be used as a weapon!

Keegan Bradley, the first to win a major with a belly putter at the 2011 PGA Championship, along with Webb Simpson, who won the U.S. Open earlier this summer with the same type of putter, have unfortunately become targets in the forthcoming anchoring ban–announced by the USGA and R&A earlier this week.

However, the rule will not go into effect until 2016. As of now, it is still legal for players to use belly putters and long putters. This three-year grace period was bound to cause problems. (Shock!) I didn’t anticipate incidents so early, but unfortunately, Keegan was heckled by a fan on the last hole on Saturday at the World Challenge.

“I had some guy here call me a cheater on the last hole, which was no fun,” he said.

No, that’s awful and unfair. I realize professional golfers should be able to take and deal with some heckling, but I draw the line when it comes to calling people “cheaters.” In golf it’s the worst possible insult. Calling a player a cheater — who has not done anything illegal — is equivalent of a racial slur. I’m serious.

Obviously they’re not quite the same thing and the latter is much worse, but that’s the closest analogy I could come up with. As someone who has experienced both, they both invoke a similar feeling — a pit in your stomach that feels incredibly hurtful. It’s indescribable.

In his pre-tourney press conference on Wednesday at Sherwood Country Club, Keegan said a spotlight had been put on players who use belly putters.

“I feel like the USGA has really put an X on our back and really shined a light on us, and I don’t know if that’s exactly fair,” he said.

I am in favor of the anchoring ban, but I don’t disagree with Keegan’s comment.

It’s a weird position to put the players in if the rule isn’t put into effect until 2016. They’re bound to get flack from fans and potentially their peers.

Franklin Corpening, a player at Q-school, uses a belly putter and told me Tuesday he disagreed with the ban, but he admitted he didn’t know the details. Thanks to Tiger Woods ability to eloquently explain the reasoning, Franklin came up to me on Wednesday and said he had changed his stance because he heard Tiger’s comments on ESPN and thought they were good points.

When Franklin showed up to PGA West for the first round of finals, he said, laughing, “I looked around and was like, ‘do people think I’m cheating?!'”

I thought he was joking at the time, but now perhaps he was half-serious.

******

As a result of the incident at the World Challenge, the USGA decided to issue a press release…

Far Hills, N.J. (December 2, 2012) – The United States Golf Association (USGA) today issued the following statement regarding yesterday’s incident at the World Challenge in which a spectator called Keegan Bradley’s use of an anchored stroke as “cheating.” The incident follows the Nov. 28 announcement by the USGA and The R&A proposing changes to the Rules of Golf that would prohibit anchoring the club in making a stroke. The proposed Rule change would take effect on January 1, 2016, in accordance with the regular four-year cycle for changes to the Rules of Golf.

“This is a deplorable incident, and there is no place in our game for this kind of behavior. As we noted when announcing proposed Rule 14-1b, it has been and remains entirely within the Rules of Golf for players to anchor the club while making a stroke. There should not be a shred of criticism of such players or any qualification or doubt about their achievements, and we think that it is inappropriate even to suggest anything to the contrary. Rule changes address the future and not the past. Up until now and until such time as a Rule change were to be implemented, golfers using an anchored stroke will have been playing by the Rules of Golf.”

“We are sorry that Keegan had to experience this unfounded criticism from an obviously uneducated spectator. Instead, Keegan and other PGA Tour professionals should be commended for their maturity and grace in managing through a proposed change to the Rules of Golf.”

“While we understand that the proposed Rules change would cause some short-term angst, we believe the new Rule would serve the long-term best interest of the game.”

Surely that fixes everything and fans will never heckle belly putter users ever again!

I think the USGA should put the rule in effect on January 1, 2014, rather than wait until 2016. What say you?

(AP Photo/Bret Hartman)