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Players React to Ban
Several players responded positively to Tuesdayfs announcement that golffs ruling bodies - the USGA and R&A - will insert a new rule (14-1b) that prohibits the use of anchored putters on January 1, 2016. Among that group is Tiger Woods, Hale Irwin, Francesco Molinari, Graeme McDowell, Nicolas Colsaerts and others.
Some are just glad the decision - which was preceded by an extended comment period among golf various governing bodies worldwide - has been made and golf can move on. "I'm very glad that it's over; that we don't need to talk about it anymore," said Germany's Martin Kaymer from the Wentworth Club in England two days before the start of the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship. "There was so many talks about it, all the opinions. I'm just glad that it's off the table now; that a decision has been made. That's it."
Others are a bit more pro-tour-centric, believing that the game's best players will be able to adapt, even though broomstick putters have helped four of the past six major champions to victory. "Fortunately for me, it doesn't affect me,h noted Sergio Garcia. "I did use it for a little bit, but I never really felt that comfortable with it.
"I think it's going to be a bit of a bother for some of the other guys, but I think they will figure out a way to get their game around it."
But many - including the powerful 27,000-member strong PGA of America, which fears the ban on anchored putters puts up yet another barrier to growing a game that has been losing participants for years - are against it.
"We are disappointed with this outcome," said PGA of America president Ted Bishop Tuesday in a statement. "As we have said publicly and repeatedly during the comment period, we do not believe 14-1b is in the best interest of recreational golfers and we are concerned about the negative impact it may have on both the enjoyment and growth of the game. Growing the game is one of the fundamental purposes of the PGA of America."
Bernhard Langer, a two-time Masters' winner and 18-time winner on the Champions Tour player, has used a long putter since the mid-1990s to great effect. "It's disappointing . . . very disappointing," said the 55-year-old German, an inductee in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
"It's the same thing I've said for months: I don't know why they couldn't come to the same conclusion 40 years ago that they did today. Why does it take 40 years? Just because we have major winners, that's what it comes down to. What does this do to you from a competition standpoint? . . . It's been talked about and talked about and it's just disappointing. I just don't understand why it took them 40 years to come to their conclusion. Did they say why it took them 40 years?"
"Sad day for the growth of golf," said Tim Mickelson, the men's coach at Arizona State University and Phil Mickelson's brother. "No matter where you stand on the ban, this doesn't help grow the game."
"The USGA just cut down a mole hill," noted the PGA Tour's Arron Oberholser. "Can they now get to the mountain? Which mountain? Driver, ball, slow play, access. You choose."
Another Hall of Fame member, Beth Daniel, echoed Oberholser's remarks. "Anchoring is not the problem with the game. How about the art of ball-striking, slow play, the ball, driving distance, lining players up?"
"Does it make it easier?" asked PGA Tour player Brendan Steele. "It's a matter of preference. Some people think using a blade putter makes putting easier, some people don't. It shows you how bogus the comment period was."
Added 2013 Masters' champion Adam Scott: "Now we're making rules for the betterment of the game based on zero evidence? Incredible," Scott said. "What did they think when they allowed it? You're dealing with professional athletes who are competitive, who want to find better ways . . . What do they think when they've got super-talented golfers putting in thousands of hours of practice with a long putter, short putter, sand wedge, whatever? It was just a matter of time. They're going to get good."
"I don't agree with the decision," said Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, who plays on both the PGA and European tours and chairs the European Tour's tournament committee. "I don't think the ban is right. They obviously are doing it for reasons they think are protecting the game, and I can see that argument. But they should have thought of that 25 years ago.
"You have so many players today who don't know anything different. I don't think it's right that you tell people something is okay for so long and you can make a living with it, and then all of sudden tell them it's wrong and they have to learn something new to keep their living going. I don't agree with that. It can't be right.
"They (the governing bodies) have themselves to blame for taking so long," added Bjorn. "I think they've acted because a few guys won a few majors. So is Keegan Bradley's major (2011 PGA Championship), Webb Simpson's major (2012 U.S. Open), are they now belittled because they used a long putter? To ban it now is wrong. I accept the ban is there and when it's in place no one will think about it, but I feel sorry for the guys who have to learn a new skill to maintain their living.
"I also think the game is suffering right now with participation, and we are putting a ban in amateur golf that is going to hurt the game, hurt participation."
The career of Tim Clark, who switched to the long putter in college due to a genetic condition that prevents him rotating his forearms and wrists inward, could be jeopardized by the ban. The diminutive South African, the 2010 Players champion, said he was among "a fair number" of players taking legal advice over the anchored putter ban.
Clark added that the players were exploring their legal options and felt the consultation period was "all smoke and mirrors," an unveiled reference that the USGA and R&A had foreordained the ban would take place, despite the contrary comments heard during the vetting process.
Clark's fellow South African, Ernie Els, who won the 2012 British Open with a long putter, isn't surprised players are turning to attorneys. "I've been using one for over a year and won a major with it, but some have been using it for 18-20 years," Els said. "I think the PGA Tour will play ball, but it's a huge issue and it's guys' livelihoods you are talking about.
"I used a short putter in a tournament earlier this year and will add it to the bag after the majors this year. They have made the decision and we have to go with the ruling bodies. They are looking out for the best interests of the game in the long run."