PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The furor cuts more painfully to Keegan Bradley.
As a guy who thrives using a belly putter, Bradley revealed Tuesday at The Honda Classic just how much the controversy over anchored putting has worn on him.
Bradley said that fan who called him a “cheater” during the World Challenge late last year wasn’t a lone wolf.
With the PGA Tour coming out Sunday against the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club’s proposed ban on anchoring, and with a resolution broiling toward completion, Bradley acknowledged he has struggled with the debate.
“It's been actually pretty difficult, especially lately,” Bradley said. “I'm being called a cheater more than ever by fans, by some writers. It's really tough. I can't imagine how people can say that to me, or to anybody out here. It's been really difficult, and I'm sick of it to be honest. I'm ready to be over it.”
Bradley acknowledged he probably reads Twitter too much.
“The word cheater, I mean, it's amazing that people can say that,” Bradley said. “It's probably the worst thing you could ever say to an athlete.”
Bradley has been using a belly putter for about five years. He won the PGA Championship with it at the end of the 2011 season, initiating a run where three of five major championships were won with belly putters. The proposed ban came out at the end of that run.
The 90-day comment period put forth by the USGA and R&A ends Thursday. The governing bodies announced that they will make their determination on whether to implement the rule sometime during this spring.
“It’s a mess,” Bradley said. “It's going to be a mess.
“There's so much hearsay that's going on with this. There's so much media around it that one day I hear one thing, ‘Oh, there's no way it's going to happen,’ and then the next day I hear, ‘It's going to happen next year.’ So I'm going to wait and see. I realize that I'm going to have to deal with it for the next couple years, which I'm fine with, but I do know the Tour has my back, which is helpful.”
That’s how Bradley understood PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem’s pronouncement Sunday that the Tour is opposed to the proposed ban, though Finchem has yet to say if the Tour would ultimately adopt implementation of such a rule.
“Commissioner Finchem and the PGA Tour (have) always had their players’ backs, no matter how big or small the group is,” Bradley said. “I'm very proud, and it makes me feel good that my Tour, the Tour that I play on, has my back.”
Bradley was pleased both the PGA Tour and PGA of America came out against the proposed ban during the 90-day comment period.
“If they are really taking this comment period seriously, I think they really need to look at what's been said by both those organizations,” Bradley said.
In five official PGA Tour starts since the proposed ban was announced, Bradley has one top-10 finish, a tie for fourth in the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He tied for 16th in his last stroke-play start, the Northern Trust Open, and lost to Marcus Fraser in the opening round of last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play.
“I think a big part of Keegan’s game is that he has a phenomenal heart,” said Jim McLean, Bradley’s swing coach. “This bothers him; I think it weighs on him, but he’s been able to handle it so well because he’s such a super competitor.”
McLean believes Bradley would adapt to a standard putter quickly, but Bradley doesn’t want to putt that way.
“Keegan works at it,” McLean said. “You don’t just grab a belly putter and putt well with it.”
Bradley will be looking to win The Honda Classic with it this week while shutting out all the folks who don’t like the fact that he’s using it.