#AskLav: Anchored putters again take center stage


These are the confessions of an anchorer.

Yes, I’ve used a belly putter since November 2011, and no, the timing was not accidental – I switched three months after Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major while anchoring his putter.

Of course, that’s at odds with the USGA talking points. They have always maintained that anchorers bagging four titles in a six-major stretch had nothing to do with the 2016 ban. They insisted they were trying to define what was a stroke for generations to come. They cited a “tremendous spike in usage,” and indeed there was, especially in the Lavner household. 

Because after watching Bradley prevail in that PGA playoff, and after researching for months the benefits of The Belly, I headed to my local golf shop here in Orlando, lined up 15 balls about 10 feet from the cup, and sank them all. Sold. I bought the putter, right there, no questions asked. (Only later did I discover that the store’s putting green funneled every ball toward the cup, thus tricking naïve customers such as myself that they could make everything with any putter.)

Anyway, like many tour pros, this switch to the long wand was out of desperation. By that point, I had tried just about everything on the greens, with minimal success. Left-hand low. Claw. Overlap. Reverse overlap. Interlock. Fingers down the shaft. Narrow stance. Wide stance. Forward press. Ball back in stance. Pop stroke. Putterhead down the line. Eyes closed. Eyes fixed on the cup. … Only the Kuchar-style arm bar and those fancy counterbalanced putters are left on my to-try list.

Nothing had really worked, which is why the lone highlight of my career, the single shining moment, remains the 2005 high school league championship, when I played out of my mind to shoot 74 and win by six, a performance that illustrated both my low ceiling as a prospect and the weak competition that existed in the Finger Lakes region in New York. Here was a poor man’s John Senden – solid ball-striker, utterly lost on the greens. 

But a strange thing happened after switching to the belly putter in late 2011. Now, I at least feel like I can make putts. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m making more putts, or that I’m a better green-reader, or that I have a better stroke. Probably none of that is true. It just means that when I stand over a putt, my first few thoughts are about pace and line and, finally, not about lagging it close so the putt will be conceded. For a lifetime yipper, that’s progress. 

But on Jan. 1, 2016, this belly putter – this lifeline – will be taken away. Not literally, of course. I could still use the magic wand in casual rounds with friends, most of whom have never been sticklers for USGA rules anyway, what with their foot wedges, generous drops and approximately 19 clubs in the bag. Money games would get a little dicier.

It also remains to be seen what tournament officials of the Red Solo Cup, GolfChannel.com’s annual battle royale, will decide in regards to anchoring. Adopting the ban in 2016 or pushing it back to ’24, as both the PGA Tour and PGA of America suggested, could significantly impact my value as a team member. 

This anchoring ban has focused on the play-for-pay ranks, the men and women competing for millions and leaving their imprint on the sport, and for good reason. But the discussion of whether to ban it or allow it for the pros has never mattered much to me. They’re all talented enough to make the switch, eventually, and with varying levels of success.

The rest of us aren’t so fortunate. A switch back to the short stick guarantees three things: more misses from inside 3 feet; constant tinkering with stances and grips and putters; and less enjoyment playing a difficult game that has never been more expensive or taken longer. 

“One of the great things about golf is that everybody plays under the same set of rules,” the USGA proudly stated last year. 

Because, apparently, that is what we really want as amateurs. To know that we’re playing under the same set of rules as pros who couldn’t putt this poorly on purpose. What a glorious, and ridiculous, game.

Here, your questions for this week’s #AskLav mailbag:

The guess here is that anchoring also will be banned for the over-50 set, for a few reasons. The Champions Tour already struggles with credibility ' some contend the courses are set up too easy, or that the players shouldnt be allowed to ride carts, or that theyre all hopped up on pain relievers. The long putter, fairly or not, has always been viewed as a crutch. And the Champions circuit, fairly or not, is an extension of the PGA Tour. Anchoring cant be banned for everyone else in the world but the aging warriors ' even at the expense of two of the tours most popular players, Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer.

Of the myriad ways to qualify for the years first major, being a 2013 European Tour winner is not one of them.

Spieth could qualify on his own, though he needs to crack the top 70 on the PGA points list by the end of the Canadian Open. (Hes currently 77th.) Based on the season the 19-year-old phenom has had in 2013, however ' from beginning the year with no status anywhere to earning more than $1 million and posting five top 10s (and counting) ' the PGA would be wise to offer the kid his second major start as a pro. No drawback to that.

Els was a solid pick at the Open even before he won a few weeks ago in Germany; now hes one of the top five favorites. Same with Westy, whose ball-striking should separate him in the wind chamber that is Muirfield. Not expecting much from Poults, who doesnt have a top 10 since the Match Play in February. If youre looking for another international player, take Charl Schwartzel.

That, too, struck me as curious when the statement first came out. But if the Tour were to implement the rule early ' for instance, in the fall of 2015, before the start of the new season ' then it would open itself up to possible litigation by playing under two sets of rules, not just the rules set forth by the USGA with the Jan. 1 date.

Um, Ive never played golf with Tiger on a Sunday ' or any day, for that matter ' so lets just assume its a tournament red. But remember, as weve seen this year during his weather-interrupted wins at Torrey Pines and Bay Hill, he wears a Final-Round Red, not just Sunday Red.

Nope. Despite what its statement may imply, this was a surprise to no one, especially the Tour. Its simply posturing by Camp Ponte Vedra.

(Mind blown.) Hard-hitting questions such as these make me wonder why youre only a beat writer for MLB.com