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Players at the Greenbrier Classic respond to a decision on Monday by the PGA Tour board to accept the ban handed down in May by golf’s governing bodies.
DON PETERSEN | Special to The Roanoke Time
Kenny Perry (right) hits from the eighth tee at the Greenbrier Tuesday as fellow players, including Josh Teater, and caddies huddle beneath umbrellas.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Long putters on the PGA Tour will go belly up in 2016.
In a meeting that took all of five minutes Monday at the Greenbrier Classic at the The Old White TPC Course, a PGA Tour board ruled to accept the ban on anchored strokes handed down in May by golf’s governing bodies, the USGA and the Royal & Ancient.
The decision was far from a shocker since the Tour has consistently followed the rules laid down by the USGA. Rule 14-1b says it’s illegal for players to attach the end of the club to their body while making a stroke.
The rule, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2016, is a punch to the gut for players who enjoyed a lot of success with the belly putters. Four of the past six major winners have rocked the long and seemingly magic wands.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” five-time tour winner Carl Pettersson said Tuesday. “I’ve used one for 16 years, but those are the rules and I’ll just have to adapt.”
In contrast to reports, Pettersson said he isn’t part of a handful of players, including Masters champion Adam Scott and highly successful Tim Clark, who have been exploring legal options.
“I’ve used it for a few years,’’ said Canadian David Hearn, 34, who has won $4.7 million the past three seasons. “Obviously I feel like I putt better with it. Anybody that does would say the same thing.
“It’s an equipment choice, just like any other piece of equipment that is within the rules to use out here. You’re going to use a piece of equipment that you feel you play the best with. I use it because I feel I putt well with it.”
The extended putter guys will have some 2 1⁄ 2 years to make the transition back to the short putter.
“Sixteen years is a long time, but I’ll see it as a challenge and get on with it,” Pettersson said.
Hearn said all he’s concerned about right now is focusing on this week and down the road.
“I definitely feel that that putter works well for me,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I’m focused on playing well in this event and the events I have coming up and getting ready for the FedEx Cup playoffs. I don’t think I put a lot of thought into what the next move is, so we’ll see.”
When asked if he was shocked by the PGA Tour’s decision, Hearn broke a slight smile and said: “It wasn’t like they said the sun wasn’t coming up tomorrow.”
Greenbrier owner Jim Justice and multiple major-champion winner Nick Faldo, a pair of old-schoolers, applauded the decision by the PGA Tour.
“We’ve had major winner after major winner that has been very successful with the anchored putter. I think it’s a good decision,” said Justice, who played college golf at Tennessee.
Justice said anchoring the putter to the body is a competitive edge.
“The reason I do is it just stabilizes part of the swing itself,’’ he said. “For crying out loud, if we could get mechanical arms, we could stick that putter in the middle of our belly and just click our arms, let it go back and forth, what’s going to be next? Sure, it’s an edge, at least it seems to be an edge to me.
“I can remember I played a million rounds almost with Sam Snead and I played when he was in his early and mid-50s and he was still quite a player. And at one time he developed a little croquet stroke between his legs and they said, ‘no, no, we’re not going to do that,’ and then they outlawed that. Then they went to where he could sidesaddle it and putt on the side.
“I think that this game, again, can you just imagine how much honor it truly has? It’s a game that I believe, and I’m probably going to get in trouble with this, I believe we don’t need any gimmicks. We just need the game, the time-honored game that brought us to where we are today. And gracious good Lord above, do we need an honored sports game today. I think golf carries a big banner, so I think it’s a good decision.”
Faldo is riding in the same boat with Justice in regards to the ban of the long flat stick.
“I’ve been all for it, I’ve been pro that I can understand and see what we want you to do, really go back to the original intentions of the game,’’ Faldo said. “It’s called a golf swing, not a golf hinge. That was the way it was intended.
“So, yes, I’m pro the decision. I understand and almost commiserate with all the people who have been with — now it’s 30 years on that we’ve been — it’s kind of a little late, but I like the decision. I’m sure I think as a golfer I’d rather get on with it, I’d rather crack on, have that in my mind thinking about three years.”
Faldo said the experienced tour players should be able to make the change in a game that includes a lot of experimentation.
“I don’t think it’s quite as dangerous for them,’’ he said. “I can feel for these youngsters who, a lot of college kids, that’s the only putter they’ve ever seen so that will be quite a transition for them.”
Faldo said the guys currently rolling the rock on tour with a club swiveling from their body will have to adapt to the old-school putting tool.
“In the past there was a stigma. … If you used a long putter it meant you either lost your hands or your mind, one of the two,” Faldo cracked. “But … in the big picture if you land from outer space and say, ‘hey, what’s this game of golf?’ This is the way it’s been played and intended to be played for the last 150-odd years. I think it’s the right decision.”
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