By Ann Liguori
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Recently, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem issued a statement expressing that although the PGA Tour holds "the USGA in highest regard," the tour opposes the ban on anchoring putters because there is not enough evidence to suggest players have an advantage by using a long putter.
Last November, the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club announced a rule they are proposing that would prohibit players from anchoring the putter to their body. This method of putting is used with the belly putter, in which players "anchor" the putter against their chest while swinging.
Knowing that the ruling would be controversial, the governing bodies issued a 90-day comment period for all to discuss and voice opinions. That 90-day period ends Thursday. The USGA and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club will decide in the spring whether to adopt the rule, which would take effect in 2016.
Last June, Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open using a belly putter. In July, Ernie Els captured the British Open with a belly putter. And this past August, Keegan Bradley added the PGA Championship to his resume using the belly putter.
Since three of the last five Major champions used the belly putter on their way to victory, unfortunately for them they've become the faces of golf who are now most associated with this style of putting and the ongoing controversy. But professionals have used this method of putting for years, and other players including Tim Clark, Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Nick O'Hern and Carl Pettersson also utilize the belly or long putters. Countless collegiate golfers implement them.
And adding fuel to the fire, since winning the PGA Championship last August using the belly putter, Bradley has been labeled "a cheater" by golf fans familiar with the proposed ruling.
Bradley told Karen Crouse of The New York Times, "It's been actually pretty difficult, you know, especially lately. I'm being called a cheater more than ever by fans. It's been really difficult, and I'm sick of it, to be honest. I'm ready to be over it."
It's unfair to label Bradley or any golfer who anchors their putter "a cheater." And it's unfair that after all these years the governing bodies are now looking to change the rules.
The focus on the game, based on data suggesting that the number of recreational players in the U.S. has been on the decline, has been to grow the game.
Proposing this ruling after all this time seems petty. It's polarizing the game at a time when golfers need to come together.
Recreational players shouldn't be ridiculed for using long putters after all this time. There is not enough data suggesting that anchoring the putter is an advantage.
Dr. Craig Farnsworth, known as the "Putt Doctor," and author of "The Putting Prescription: The Doctor's Proven Method for a Better Stroke," told me that he "has placed a number of players on a computer and compared their stroke with a conventional and a belly putter and saw very little or zero difference in the two. And, when a difference was seen, it was of no consequence in making them a better putter."
"And this brings us to the real issue here," Dr. Farnsworth continued. "Aside from no meaningful statistics to back up any claim of cheating or an unfair advantage, the USGA and the Royal & Ancient had to rewrite the rules to make it illegal. Before, a stroke was a stroke, anchored or not. Paul Runyan played with a belly putter way back in the 30s, I believe, and he wasn't the first!
"They already banned the square grooves, causing serious golfers to purchase new equipment, but it had little to zero effect on scoring for the Tour players. But for the rest of us, thanks a lot, USGA."
It's time to drop the proposed ruling against anchoring the putter. Let's spend more time thinking of ways to get more individuals excited about golf! And if a belly or long putter makes amateurs think they can enjoy the game more, that's a good thing!
Is anchoring the putter cheating? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below...
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