Dropping the anchor on putters

rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.comNovember 27, 2012 

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ANTALYA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: Webb Simpson of the USA putts on the eighth green against Hunter Mahan of the USA during day two of the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final at Antalya GC on October 10, 2012 in Antalya, Turkey. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

WARREN LITTLE — Getty

The USGA and R&A have scheduled an international media teleconference for Wednesday morning when they’re expected to announce that anchoring putters – or any other club – to your body will no longer be allowed under the rules of golf, effective 2016.

The hints and rumors have been out there for a while that the days of Webb Simpson sticking the grip end of a putter into his navel or Adam Scott resting one end of his broomstick putter against his sternum are coming to an end.

The teleconference is expected to make it quasi-official. It will become officially official next year when both of golf’s ruling parties hold their official meetings, and then the ban will go into effect in 2016.

It seems unlikely there would be a global teleconference to announce the rules aren’t changing.

Rules changes in golf – like presidential elections – happen only every four years. Golf doesn’t like to rush into things, though it has fast-tracked the expected anchoring ban since officials said a year ago they didn’t see it as a big problem.

Then Keegan Bradley and Simpson and Ernie Els won majors using their particular versions of anchored putters. Els has longed believed anchored putting should be banned but made the switch himself, saying half-jokingly that he would continue to cheat as long as it was allowed.

When approximately 30 percent of the players in the Open Championship last summer were anchoring putters, the old guard went into action even before 14-year-old Guan Tianlang won the Asia-Pacific Amateur and a spot in the Masters using a belly putter.

Too bad they didn’t do something about the golf ball and/or modern drivers, which have done more damage to the game than anchored putting might ever do. Instead, they are “modernizing” the Old Course, a shiver-inducing thought that more aggressive action against technology could have prevented.

If a ban on anchoring is enacted, threats of lawsuits will follow. However, if reports are accurate, belly putters and long putters are not being outlawed in golf. They can be used but they may not be anchored against the body.

A ban would not put an asterisk beside the majors won by Simpson and others. They won playing by the rules just as Bobby Jones won some of his major championships using clubs that were later deemed illegal.

Putting is a dark science, which explains the curious implements and methods used by golfers tortured by the act of rolling a ball into a hole. It has driven people mad and will continue to do so.

I’ve always believed if you could putt with a push broom then do it. But I also think putting should require a stroke similar to what a full shot does. Anchoring a putter is a way to eliminate unwanted movement – the kind nerves cause, particularly under pressure.

Defenders of anchored putting point out that no player in the top 10 in strokes gained-putting on the PGA Tour uses an anchored putter, arguing that if it’s so great, everyone would do it. It’s a fair point. It’s not for everyone.

But there has been a sense that young players are learning the game with anchored putters, Tianlang’s milestone victory being a dramatic example. Within a generation, the fundamentals of putting could change.

With a ban on anchoring coming, that won’t happen.

Now, if they could just do something to eliminate the 200-yard 7-iron.

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