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PGA urged to follow suit and ban long putters

Fears of a split in the sport after R&A announces end of use of club from 2016

Polite society, also known as golf, threatens to turn feral over the ban announced yesterday on anchored putters. This being a game of manners, those opposed to the decision by the sport’s rule-makers, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and the United States Golf Association, to outlaw from 1 January 2016, the use of devices that pivot against the body, soften their frustration beneath a veneer of civility. But don’t be fooled by etiquette.

Golf is holding its breath over the next few weeks while the most powerful force in the game, the PGA Tour of America, decides whether to take defeat on the chin or go it alone in defiance of Rule 14-1b. The Tour set out its opposition to the proposed amendment during the three-month consultation period that closed in February and said it would now begin a process of deliberation with its members to determine what elements of the rule it would implement. The Tour reserves the right to operate under a local rule that allows its members to use anchored devices at its events.

Though there are prominent voices speaking out against that position, like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, arguing that all clubs should swing freely, there is strong support from players of the calibre of Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Adam Scott and Ernie Els, all of whom have won majors with anchored devices in the past two years.

In justification of the ban R&A chief executive, Peter Dawson, said: “We took a great deal of time to consider this issue and received a variety of contributions from individuals and organisations at all levels of the game. The report published today gives a comprehensive account of the reasons for taking the decision to adopt the new Rule and addresses the concerns that have been raised. We recognise this has been a divisive issue but after thorough consideration we remain convinced that this is the right decision for golf.”

Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America, the body representing professional golfers and coaches in the United States, disagrees and has thrown his weight behind the professional tour. “We are disappointed with this outcome,” Bishop said. “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.”

The PGA Tour statement said: “We will now begin our process to ascertain whether the various provisions of Rule 14-1b will be implemented in our competitions and, if so, examine the process for implementation.”

Colin Montgomerie, who sank the winning putt at the 2004 Ryder Cup using the anchoring method, gave the decision a resounding pat on the back. “I’m delighted that common sense is prevailing and we’re getting rid of something that took the pressure and tension out of the game. We want to put that back in. I holed a putt to win the Ryder Cup with an anchored putter, and I was very glad that I had one. I’m not so sure the ball would have gone in without it. That proved that it was easier with that putter than without.”

Montgomerie urged PGA Tour supremo, Tim Finchem, not to forge ahead with the threatened split. “I can understand that Tim Finchem feels he has to work on behalf of his players. But let’s hope he has to go along with it. It’s not good for the game. I’d hope they would see there is no win here. The game moves on. Hindsight tells us it should have happened 20 years ago, and then it would have been easier.”

Another who once dabbled with the long handle, Sergio Garcia, said: “I did use it for a little bit but I never really felt comfortable with it. I think it is going to be a bit of bother for some of the other guys, but I think they will figure out a way to get their game around it. Obviously I stand behind the decision of the R&A and the USGA. I think that we should all do the same thing.”