When the world No 1 speaks, golf listens. Rory McIlroy put his hefty support behind the proposed ban on belly putters, siding with the Royal & Ancient and the United States Golf Association and railing against the PGA Tour which has decided to take a stand against the game's ruling bodies to allow its Tour players to use the controversial putters which are due to be exiled from the game in 2016.
Such a high-profile dissenter among the professional ranks will no doubt cause a belly ache for the PGA Tour chief executive, Tim Finchem, as McIlroy arrived to defend his Honda Classic title, a victory that took him to No 1 last year, here at the PGA National course at Palm Beach, Florida.
"I read that Monty [Colin Montgomerie] said this divide isn't good for golf, and I don't think it is," McIlroy said. "We all need to be on one side or the other. It's up to the governing bodies to decide. I saw what Tim Finchem had to say at the end of last week, and you know, I sort of think it was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to how much success people were having with it."
As the debate rages among amateurs and professionals alike, McIlroy's thoughts illustrated the complexity of the arguments for and against the ban. "I'm all for people enjoying the game and trying to make the game as easy as possible and bringing people to the game," he said. "If that means that they should allow belly putters or anchored putters to make it easier for the general public, then you know, that's a good thing. But then they talk about whether you should have one set of rules for us and one set of rules for the amateurs; it's just a bit of a mess," McIlroy said. "It's just opened a can of worms."
McIlroy played 36 holes in just five hours alongside Tiger Woods after being knocked out in the first round of last week's WGC-Accenture Match Play in Tucson, Arizona. "We had two matches. He beat me the first time and I beat him in the second, so we're even," he said with a grin.