In 26 years as the US Golf Association's technical director, Frank Thomas made every ruling on equipment. Only one of his decisions was overturned, the one in which he ruled against putters that could be anchored to the body. Involved then was the long or chest putter. The belly putter came along later. Now, the USGA and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club are taking what one official described as "a fresh look" at both, with an eye toward banning their use.
Anchoring, as the ruling officials call it, refers to any putting method outside the definition of a natural and traditional stroke.
The USGA won a similar case many years ago when it ruled against croquet (between the legs) putting that had been introduced on the PGA Tour by Sam Snead. The putters themselves weren't outlawed but the method was. That would be the same approach taken against long putting.
Keegan Bradley, the reigning PGA champion, uses a belly putter. Webb Simpson recently won the US Open with a belly putter. Those victories provided some heavy ammunition for those who want to bring putting back to traditional methods.
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The USGA's executive director, Mike Davis, said, "We want to be sure that we are looking at all angles and thinking about what is in the best interests both of the traditions of the game, the history of the game, and what we think would be good for the game."
It should never have come to this. The simple truth is that the ruling bodies should not have approved the long putters in the first place. The clubs offered a method that fell outside what had been a standard for hundreds of years.
When the long ones made their appearance more than 20 years ago, I said that if I ever reached a point where I had to use a long putter, I would quit the game. That was before my putter decided to go about its own business no matter what I said.
Today, I go back and forth between a standard putter and a long one, and I have a belly putter in reserve. Sort've putter du jour. Instead of driving me out, the long putter has kept me in the game. I'm still a lousy putter but the broomstick helps a little.
If the USGA decides to closet the long one, I will not be a serious threat to win the sixth flight in the senior club championship but I can live with that.
In fact, I already do.