Decision on whether long putters stay legal could be made soon, says R&A

Adam Scott at the British Open
Getty Images
British Open runner-up Adam Scott is still was capable of making putts and winning with a short putter, says his fellow Australian Geoff Ogilvy.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: Industry News

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- One day after Ernie Els won the British Open to become the third major champion using a belly putter, the Royal & Ancient said long putters were ''firmly back on the radar'' and that a decision could come soon on whether players can keep using them.

R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson said discussions with the U.S. Golf Association about longer putters anchored to the body began before Els holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the Claret Jug at age 42.

Keegan Bradley at the PGA Championship and Webb Simpson at the U.S. Open both used belly putters. Adam Scott, who had a four-shot lead with four holes to play in the British Open, was using a long putter that he says helped turn around his game.

''We appreciate that there is much speculation about this and that we need to clarify the position as soon as possible,'' Dawson said Monday. ''And I think you're going to see us saying something about it one way or the other in a few months, rather than years.''

But he made clear that the R&A and USGA, which set the rules for golf around the world, have not decided whether to ban them.

''This decision has not been taken,'' he said. ''Please don't think that it has.''

Tiger Woods was among those this year who recommended that the putter simply be the shortest club in the bag. Els once criticized the long putters, but when he struggled mightily with his putting, he switched to a belly putter late last year.

''As long as it's legal, I'll keep cheating like the rest of them,'' Els said in October.

Dawson said the discussion with the governing bodies has switched from an equipment issue to a rules issue.

''The initial determination has been that we are examining the subject from a method of stroke standpoint rather than length of putter standpoint, and that takes it into the area of the rules of play, the rules of golf, rather than the rules of equipment,'' he said.

The rules committees of the R&A and USGA are conducting the study, and each will make a recommendation.

Because it is being treated as a potential rule change, it would not become effective until 2016. The Rules of Golf are updated every four years.

Jim MacArthur, chairman of the championship committee for the R&A, said there were 27 long putters and 16 belly putters in the 156-man field at the Open. Dawson said the number of golfers using the long putter has dramatically increased from about 5 percent five years ago, although he did not notice an increase at the recent British Amateur.

''It hasn't yet backed its way all the way down the game, although the statistics would show -- and I've checked this with the manufacturers -- that at the club level or recreational level, they are much more used in the United States than they are anywhere else in the world,'' Dawson said.

Simpson and Bradley both were regarded as good putters before switching to the belly. Padraig Harrington, who always has used a conventional putter, said more players might be tempted to switch if it's clear their competitors have an advantage.

Phil Mickelson experimented with the belly putter last year in the FedExCup playoffs.

''Obviously, if the standard of putting goes up, which it clearly does ... guys wouldn't be using them if they didn't putt better with them, yeah?'' he said. ''If the standard of putting goes up, it puts more pressure on the guys that aren't using one just to compete. So all of a sudden, it's hard for a normal putter. Is he doing the right thing? Should he be using the long putter?

''So it actually has a negative effect on others as much as a positive effect on some.''

Scott made the biggest turnaround. He felt such despair over his putting that he switched at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February 2011. His good friend, Geoff Ogilvy, said that his fellow Australian still was capable of making putts and winning even with a short putter.,

''It just makes his bad days better,'' Ogilvy said. ''It doesn't make his good days better.''

The objection Dawson has heard the most is that if players can't putt with a conventional club, why should they have a crutch to compete with those who can.

''That's the general argument one hears,'' Dawson said. ''But we're also seeing now people who can putt perfectly well in the conventional way thinking that an anchored stroke gives them an advantage. I think that's the fundamental change that we've witnessed in the last couple of years.''

 


Comments

brgcorbett

I believe the player needs to make a stroke as they would with any other club. That is free, and unanchored to the body in any way. If this stipulation is not enforced now, then the issue of what constitutes a legal stoke will linger and cause friction between players and fans alike,...who needs this aggravation. Time for everybody to take their medicine, reset, and remove the doubt once and for all

harris0481

The only so call sport that lets the players choose their own equipment. All other sports work very hard to keep the source of play equal for all who compete. At the professional level golf is a young mans game. Looks like it's just another way for old guys to cheat and stay in the sport. For god sakes if you got problems with your back than take you long putter and go play with the other old folks, leave those who are natural stars at the game to do what they do. It's time the long putter should go along with other advanage equipment used. Give them all the same gear and then tell me who's the best. Thank god for baseball, football, and yes basketball. At least the player in these sports all use the same stuff.

chevigny

Keep it legal for amatures, illegal for pros.

rlatocha

to Maury this is far from shooting trap or skeet as a golfer you should know this and i do agree with Art and Tiger cries, but has anyone thought about the change in product on the Chmpions Tour , will we see the like of Couples an a bad back ? A longer anchored putter gives us older guys a break on our aching backs, sure we want to adhere to the rules and I as one will stop playing and stop watching and endorsing the great game of golf come Jan 1 2016 if this passes. Great foresight on gorwing the game R&A an USGA !

bobwolf119

It doesn't matter if the shaft is 'attached to the body' either at the navel or chest or hanging loose in the hands ...the golfer must still know how to 1)read the green surface, 2) know the length of the putt, 3) determine the speed of the putt, 4) keep their eyes lined up properly and 5) keep their nerves steady ... let them use whatever type of putter they choose to use ...the shaft length of the putter is only 1/5 of the success factors of getting the ball into the hole consistently. Eliminating the long putter or belly putter will only drive more people away from the game ...which is not what the game of golf needs at this point in time.

duboisab

As Ben stated above " Putting is a art, just like the rest of this game we all called golf. Unless you have medical issues, I'm against". One, how do you determine who qualifies on medical? Two, does putting with a long putter (anchored) removing the art? Three, if it is so easy, why doesn't everyone do it?

When people get older and the joints get stiff, this allows people to practice their putting for 1-2 hours after work where this would be impossible with a short putter. What enjoyment! Sure I should be able to put if I am capable of swinging an iron but certainly more than 15 minutes of practice an I am headed to a physical therapist.

The USGA, PGA, and R&A should be trying to bring people to the game, not drive the away. I will tell you if this passes I will never attend another PGA tournament nor watch it on television. If the was an unfair advantage it should have been addressed 20 years ago, not when you get some whining (see below) commentators, whining players, and idiots in the PGA to even consider driving people away from the game of a lifetime.

Adj. 1. whining - to utter a long and high-pitched like a whine or plaintive crying
2. whining - habitually complaining; "a whining child"

bfulco2000

In the military sharp shooters use varies hardware to stabilized there weapons for long range accuracy. Why, because of nerves, a kill shot, or even a cup of coffee. There are very few if any sharp shooters that will do a long range kill shot free standing. Any device that will cause you to stabilize your tool of your trade puts you at an advantage... period. You don't hear anyone complaining about the rules on balls or CC size of clubs do you? Putting is a art, just like the rest of this game we all called golf. Unless you have medical issues, I'm against!

bfulco2000

In the military sharp shooters use varies hardware to stabilized there weapons for long range accuracy. Why, because of nerves, a kill shot, or even a cup of coffee. There are very few if any sharp shooters that will do a long range kill shot free standing. Any device that will cause you to stabilize your tool of your trade puts you at an advantage... period. You don't hear anyone complaining about the rules on balls or CC size of clubs do you? Putting is a art, just like the rest of this game we all called golf. Unless you have medical issues, I'm against!

panickj

If they ban the long putter, I will sell my clubs, and stop watching golf. I am a fan of evolution. The long putter has been around for 20 years, now that someone on tour is using one successfully others are crying.

No matter what a few are crying the public watches the game to see amazing shots, putts included, if a long putter will help more golf balls go in then that is good for the game.

There are plenty of people like myself who for whatever reason the long putter has allowed to enjoy the game. I myself have a bad back. But the long putter allows me not to sit hunched over a short stick. How does your back feel after two hours of putting practice?

ResIpsa

As to the Body Anchored Putter use, I would ask this question to the rule making committee members:

"If you were in a trap or skeet shooting competition would you consider allowing some shooters to use a gun rest.? " ; all shooters? ; Would either choice change the traditional aspects of the competition???

desertgolfrepair

As long as Tiger cries about them USGA will ban them because he is there "SUPER STAR GOLFER.