Sports Commentary 5/22/13
The banning of the belly putter
The man who singlehandedly brought golf into the television era and the man who has taken the greatest advantage of it were both in favor of the rule change, so, by the time it was announced yesterday it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. The United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient, the governing bodies of golf in the United States and Europe, jointly announced that beginning in 2016 anchored putters will no longer be allowed at events sanctioned by the two bodies. Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods had made no secret of their support of the ruling but 13 of 15 players on the PGA Tour advisory council voted to oppose it. It now falls on the PGA Tour and the PGA of America to determine whether the rule will be implemented for their sanctioned events. It’s likely that the PGA will go along with it because of the four major men’s tournaments only the PGA Championship is governed by the PGA. The U.S. Open is a USGA sanctioned event while The Open Championship falls under the Royal and Ancient. The Masters falls under it’s own rulings and has yet to check in on yesterday’s announcement. It’s unlikely the PGA would put golfers in a situation of opting to use the anchored putters in the PGA Championship while having to make the adjustment to free style putting for the other majors. The putting style in question is defined as “Anchoring the club either directly or by use of an anchor point.” In other words, if any part of the club, or any part of a hand that is directly in contact with the club, is anchored against any part of the body, be it the stomach, the chest or the chin. While the PGA says it is still examining the process for implementation, USGA executive director Mike Davis said the rule could not be written “For one group of elite players”, referring to PGA and LPGA Tour players. The majority of players around the world are amateurs and the vast majority of them fail to break 100 on a regular basis. Anchored putting is considered by many to be an advantage because it removes from the equation the usual pressure, nerves and twitches a player feels with traditional, two hand, free style putting. PGA of America pros are responsible for the golf operation at most public and private courses nationwide and the PGA is expected to go along with the ruling and allow their pros to do what they do better than anyone, teach, and make sure there is a uniformity to the implementation, keeping the rules for local events as consistent as possible with state and national amateur competitions. The PGA is more likely to have it’s pros teach free style putting to amateurs who have favored the anchored approach than continue the legal use of anchored putting. There is a unique quality to golf in that, from the lowest amatuer level to the highest level of professional competition, the rules are the same and it’s a game based on integrity, everyone conforming to the same rules and following them. It’s why so frequently amateurs call the pros on rules violations when watching an event on television. If you ever play the game, regardless of handicap or level of play, from club leagues to sanctioned state and national competitions, this rule will effect you. It’s time to make sure that standard putter is one of the maximum 14 clubs you’re allowed to carry in your bag. If there’s one thing the PGA, USGA and the Royal and Ancient agree on, they’re all sticklers for rules. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.