Governing bodies propose ban on anchored putting

By Ryan LavnerNovember 28, 2012, 1:30 pm

Anchors away.

Citing a “tremendous spike in usage” and “growing advocacy” among pros and instructors, golf’s governing bodies announced Wednesday that they have proposed a ban on anchored putting that would become effective January 2016.

“We’re not doing this because we said (anchoring) is a great advantage,” U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis told Golf Channel. “It may be advantageous for some, but this is fundamentally about what we think is the right thing for the game.

“Rules changes are about the future of the game, and we really do fundamentally think that defining a stroke is the right thing for the future.”

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Rule 14-1b is expected to be finalized this spring, after a 90-day window that will allow industry insiders to address any lingering concerns. But the new rule won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2016, when the next edition of the Rules of Golf is published.


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“We’re not going into a 90-day comment period lightly,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said. “We want to listen to what people have to say, and if something new comes up, we will certainly consider it.

“But I would stress this is not a popularity contest, not an election. As the governing body we are doing what we think is best for the game of golf, and this is our responsibility.”

The unprecedented decision came as little surprise, after it was reported last month that Davis held a presentation at The McGladrey Classic to explain how a ban would be implemented and to ask players for their support. In a statement, the PGA Tour said Wednesday that it would review the rule change at the next annual player meeting, scheduled for Jan. 22 in San Diego, and it is expected to be reviewed by the Policy Board in March.

The proposed rule states that during a stroke, a player cannot anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.” Among the prohibited strokes: a belly putter anchored against the stomach; anchored long putter to the sternum; the end of the club anchored against the chin; and an anchor point created by the forearm.

Worth noting: A stroke made with the putter resting against the forearm – a method used by Matt Kuchar – was deemed to be a form of grip, not anchoring, which is permitted by the USGA.

It is also important to note that the ban outlaws anchoring, not the putters themselves. So a player would still be able to use a long putter, so long as the butt of the handle is not affixed to a part of the body (chin, sternum, stomach, etc.).

This decision affects all levels of golf – from the recreational level to the professionals – as the governing bodies have decided against bifurcation, or separate rules for touring pros and amateurs.

“One of the great things about golf is that everybody plays under the same set of rules,” Davis said. “It really gives structure to the game. For those people who think we should bifurcate, I’m telling you, you haven’t thought through the ramifications. Once you open Pandora’s box, it will forever change the game. We are steadfast on this one. People who want to bifurcate don’t understand what they’re asking.”

Long putters have been around for decades, of course, but Davis said the percentage of players who have used the clubs have increased from about 2-4 percent in the 1980s and ’90s, to 6 percent from 2006-’10, to about 15 percent this season.

But the controversial issue has taken on heightened importance after three of the past five major winners won while using an anchored putter. Most recently, 14-year-old Tianlang Guan won the Asian Amateur (and thereby earned an invitation to The Masters) while wielding a belly putter, a club which he began using only six months prior, Dawson said.

Asked if this was merely a reaction to those recent successes, Dawson said emphatically, “This is not a major-championship issue. This has been about the upsurge in general usage.”

Added Davis, “We are looking to the future of the game and saying that we don’t think golf should be played this way.”

In 1991, Rocco Mediate became the first player to win a PGA Tour event with a long putter, and the club quickly gained popularity among the over-50 set on the Champions Tour. At that time, the long putter was viewed as a sign of weakness, an aid for players with back problems or putting woes.

No longer.

The narrative has shifted, the battle lines on this issue clearly drawn.

Those who support a ban – which includes Tiger Woods, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer, among others – essentially claim that pressing the butt of the putter against the stomach, chin or sternum provides an unfair advantage because it reduces pressure and nerves while making a stroke. Webb Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open, rebuffed that notion, saying Tuesday, “Well, I was shaking in my boots on that last putt.”

Dawson, however, said that an anchored stroke “takes one of the frailties out of the stroke that is an inherent part of the game.”

Those against a ban point to the fact that none of the top 20 putters on the 2012 PGA Tour used an anchored putter, according to the Tour’s strokes gained-putting statistic. And they also contend that not only is the technique within the rules of the game – and has been for decades – it caused an uproar only after Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA), Simpson (’12 U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (’12 British) each won major championships while using a belly putter. There has been some suggestion that their accomplishments will now be viewed with a mythical asterisk.

“Absolutely not,” Dawson said. “They won fair and square with the rules that existed at the time.”

Does the debate end here? Hardly.

Players such as Carl Pettersson, Tim Clark and Simpson have each used the long putter since college. Anticipating this decision, however, Simpson revealed that he has already begun practicing with the conventional putter, and will use that club in tournament play “as soon as I feel ready.”

Though it had been previously reported that Bradley was prepared to challenge a potential ban, perhaps to the point of legal action, the 26-year-old squashed all notions Tuesday at the World Challenge. Yes, he will continue to use the belly putter until the ban is implemented, but added, “I have total respect for Mike Davis and the USGA, and they are doing what they think is best for the game, and I respect that.”

Said Davis: “We legitimately believe it’s the right thing to do for the game of golf long-term. We know short-term there is going to be some angst over this. We accept that. We don’t like it either. But we want to, once and for all, put this controversial ruling to bed.”

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.