Okay, I’ve had it. I’ve tried to maintain some reportorial distance from taking sides on the anchored putter debate. I still believe that there’s merit to both ends of the argument. But now things have become downright farcical, and I’ve had it…
The last straw was Padraig Harrington simultaneously speaking out against anchored putters while switching to an anchored putter last weekend.
“I think it’s bad for the game of golf,’” Harrington said. “But I’m going to use everything, if something’s going to help me for the next three and a half years, I’m going to use it.”
Harrington is far from alone. Remember when Ernie Els spoke out against anchored putting, then switched to a belly putter, remarking along the way that “as long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.” Not long after, Els won the British open with a belly putter
But remember, golf is a gentleman’s game, a game of dignity like no other.
Four out of the past six major tournaments have been won with an anchored putter, the latest being the 2013 Masters, where Adam Scott swept the winning putt into the final playoff hole with his flatstick…err, broomstick.
What’s different about Scott’s victory is that it was the first major tournament to be won with an anchored putter since the proposed ban on anchored putting was announced late last year by golf’s ruling bodies, the R&A and USGA. The ban is set to take effect in 2016.
In other words, Scott won the Masters with a putting method that is scheduled to be declared illegal. Since when are illegalities scheduled?
This is different than the wedge debate, when sharp u-grooves were phased out several years ago. This is about a method, an action taken by the golfer. This is a method whose own users have called “cheating.” This is not good…
Here’s what happened. There have long been rumblings of discontent about the anchored putting method. Certain tour professionals have long been outspoken about it, and there was a sense that golf’s ruling bodies were uncomfortable with anchored putting as well. But no action was taken, and the years ticked by…
Then Keegan Bradley won a major with an anchored putter in the summer of 2011. Then Webb Simpson won the 2012 U.S. Open with a belly putter. The belly putter was no longer an “old man’s putter,” but rather a weapon being used by young guns to win major tournaments. Then Ernie “Anchored Putting Is Cheating” Els won the British Open with a belly putter stuck in his gut. Along the way, belly putter sales went through the roof as putter companies scrambled to meet consumer demand, a welcome salve to the extended wounds of the faltering economy.
Then golf’s ruling bodies, after years and years of inaction, suddenly decided, well, enough is enough. We’re not going to take this anchored putting business anymore! We’re going to pitch a fit and ban this scourge…in three and a half years!
Sorry, but the cat is out of the bag, the genie’s out of the bottle, the ship has sailed. What we are left with is insanity.
We have a tour pro winning the Masters with a putting method that is scheduled to be illegal. We have another tour pro switching to the method while saying it’s bad for the game of golf. We have an incomprehensible situation whereby golf’s ruling bodies are simultaneously acting too late and prematurely. They failed to do anything until the belly putter got red hot on the PGA Tour, then when they finally took “action,” it was came in the form of “hurry up and wait” until 2016.
Resistance to the ban is building. The PGA Tour and PGA of America are opposed to the proposed ban. But even if the ban is averted, the flames of the debate have been uncomfortably fanned.
Golf’s ruling bodies haven’t yet taken any real action, but they have forever emboldened the specter of “cheating” that is now haunting the professional circuits. It’s unfortunate and unnecessary.
Personally, I’m not a fan of anchored putting. But this whole thing has been botched and bungled. The time to take action has passed. The time to take action would have been before anchored putting was used to win four of the past six major tournaments. Not 2016.
It’s time to ban the ban, and move on.
Sean Weir, the author of this piece, is the editor of PutterZone.com