Anchors away?

ASSOCIATED PRESS Webb Simpson, his putter firmly planted in his stomach, abhors the intimation that his biggest victory should have an asterisk.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Webb Simpson, his putter firmly planted in his stomach, abhors the intimation that his biggest victory should have an asterisk.
Posted: June 11, 2013

WOULD AUSSIES BE historically jubilant without Adam Scott's 49-inch Futura X?

Would you ever have seen Keegan Bradley's pearly canines at Fenway if not for his Sabertooth?

Would Ernie Els be hot if not for his White Hot?

Would Webb Simpson's nuttiness be known without his Craz-E?

Each member of that foursome has won one of the past six majors.

Each anchored a long putter to his body.

Each member would forfeit the putting style he used in his win if the PGA Tour conforms to the new rule the UGSA and the R&A will enact in 2016 that bans the anchored putting stroke. The ban, according to the UGSA, will eliminate corrosive divisiveness in the game of gentlemen.

It also will make putting hard again.

That's the point.

Simpson, who won the U.S. Open last year, leads the group to Merion's devious greens this week. Simpson clearly is scalded by the intimation that the biggest of his three Tour wins should have an asterisk. He has a right; Simpson, like Bradley, is considered a good putter whether or not he shoves the grip into his navel.

However, Els and Scott clearly benefited from recent changes to anchored putting. Charlie Owens' homemade version of a putter anchored on his chest helped him win twice in the Senior Tour in the 1980s, and Orville Moody dominated with one on the same tour. Rocco Mediate bumbled into more than $16 million worth of long-putter cash, and, in 2000, Paul Azinger gutted out a win with his belly version. Vijay Singh, third on the all-time money list, won four times in 2003 alone with a belly putter . . . but the devices drew great ire when Bradley banked his major win in 2011.

After Els switched to the anchored style in 2011, he famously said he would "cheat like the rest of them." Els already has used a short putter in competition this season and, he said, will use a short putter full time soon after the PGA Championship in August.

Likewise, Simpson and Bradley have said they will adhere to whatever the PGA Tour ultimately decides, though Bradley acknowledged earlier this year that the debate - and fans' vocal derision of his putting style - has affected his play.

Scott has gone further. From 2002 to 2010, he had four top-10 finishes in 36 starts in major tournaments, and he had no top-10s in his last 16. He switched putting styles in the spring of 2011 and finished in the top 10 in five of nine starts, with two second-place finishes and that win in April at Augusta National.

So, last month Scott joined Tim Clark, Carl Pettersen and six other golfers in retaining the counsel of Boston bulldog Harry Manion. The group has not committed to sue anyone (the PGA Tour would be the prime target) but it is rattling its oversized sabers.

Scott, usually a diplomat in Softspikes, has venomously called the ban illogical and the governing bodies arrogant.

The histrionics surrounding the anchor ban have reached a level of abject absurdity.

Clark, the smallish South African who will be 38 in December, has used a long putter since college, when a congenital problem pushed him to use the device. Sounds like an empathic plight, no?

You wonder how any judge will weigh Clark's argument, published in January in Golfweek, that such a ban would compromise his ability to make a living; that it would imperil such life choices as home ownership.

Clark has won more than $20 million, and that does not include sponsor dollars.

Since the USGA and the R&A ratified the ban May 21, Clark has been mercifully quiet about the issue. Not so Simpson, who took to Twitter to unleash his outrage.

Simpson called for bifurcation of the rules, which would allow PGA players to anchor their putters but not amateurs. Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said earlier this year the Tour would oppose a ban on anchoring, but not that it would ignore the USGA ruling.

That's right: The best players in the world could use an aid at the Masters but Harry Hacker cannot use it at the member-guest. While we're at it, let's give major leaguers metal bats and make Little Leaguers play with wood.

Simpson asserts that other professional leagues often have different sets of rules, but those differences usually make the game harder for the pros, not easier. And those rules seldom address equipment.

You wonder whether the ban on long putters isn't just golf's way of nibbling at the greater issue: In an effort to make the game more playable for everyone, equipment manufacturers have made the game child's play for the pros.

Not only are PGA pros fitter, smarter and better prepared than ever, they now play with balls that are engineered to carry forever, fly straighter than a drone and land and stick as if the greens were flypaper. The pros swing drivers with heads the size of land mines and faces as thin as prosciutto. They carry hybrid clubs that swing like 9-irons and spin the ball as much.

None of that looks bad, though.

Long putters look ridiculous; the one being used by 14-year-old Chinese phenom Tianlang Guan looks like a stickball bat. Shouldn't he be playing stickball, anyway?

Typically, about 13 percent of the players in a PGA tournament use an anchored putter. No one in the top 10 in strokes gained-putting, the Tour's putting metric, uses an anchored putter. But then, great putters don't use anchored putters to get greater. Lousy putters use them to become decent.

Matt Kuchar, 14th after his win June 2 at the Memorial, is the best among long-putter putters, with two wins this season. His style - anchored along his left arm - will remain legal, despite the apparent advantage of eliminating at least his wrists from the stroke. Bradley, at 28th, was the highest-ranked broomstick putter.

So, among the 22 winners this season, only Scott falls into the classification of future criminal. However, four of the top 16 money winners - Kuchar, Scott, Bradley and Simpson - used putters that violated at least the spirit of the new rule.

Oddly, physicists seem to avoid the debate. The Daily News contacted physics departments at two universities; neither touched the topic with a 4-foot pole. Crutch users point out that no definitive study has determined that using a long putter creates an advantage.

They also argue that, if the putters really aided players so much that they need to be outlawed, everyone would use them; an argument more flawed than Sergio Garcia's world view.

For one thing, most professional golfers have too much pride to be seen using a putter meant to cure old men's yips.

And, if the putting style didn't provide a marked advantage, why would golfers be fighting so hard to keep it legal?


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

@inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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