Philadelphia, PA – The United States Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club announced Tuesday they are enacting the anchored putting ban as a new rule in 2016.
Cutting to the chase, they are waiting until 2016 because that is when the next Rules of Golf is officially published. Those rules are updated every four years, and that is the next update.
That's the simple part. The hard part of this is figuring out why the rule was needed in the first place.
The new rule, Rule 14-1b, basically states that a player cannot anchor a belly putter or a long putter against ones body when making a stroke. It doesn't make those clubs illegal, just the act of anchoring said club against ones body.
I'm conflicted as to whether the rule will help the game. By the USGA's own admission, only 2-4 percent of golfers across the United States and Europe use anchored putters.
But you know who does? Four of the last six major champions!
The cynics will say this is a rush to judgment because players with anchored putters are now winning majors. The traditionalists will argue that anchoring the putter against one's body is not a true stroke of the golf club.
In essence, both sides are correct.
This issue was not at the fore three or four years ago. Keegan Bradley then became the first with a belly putter to win a major, the 2011 PGA Championship. Ever since, Webb Simpson has won the U.S. Open, Ernie Els the British Open and Adam Scott this year's Masters.
Anchored putters are not taking over the game, despite these four wins, as the USGA pointed out with the number of people using these clubs. At the same time, the traditionalists are right in saying that using an anchored putter is not a true stroke.
The USGA admitted there is no statistical data saying anchoring provides an advantage. They counter that by saying the rules of the game are not based on statistics, but on "judgments that define the game and its intended challenges."
Though it is a separate issue completely, the USGA and R&A changed the rules regarding grooves on clubs a few years ago because there was statistical data saying certain clubs gave more of an advantage.
In the case of the anchored putters, that data would be nearly impossible to calculate. It was easy to measure, on say wedges, because different groove- types created more or less spin, therefore controlled the distance of the golf ball and the spin that ball would get when landing on the greens.
The anchored putter ruling points out that, "One of the challenges is to control the entire club, and anchoring alters that challenge."
True enough, but again, is it an advantage? That determination will likely never be answered. Now that the rule has been adopted, some 1 million golfers worldwide using long putters have 2 1/2 years to adopt a new putting stroke.
For the average Joe and tour pro alike, that is plenty of time.
You can include me in the camp that this rule wasn't needed at this time.
The rule most people want to see adjusted is the performance of the golf ball. We all love the 300-plus yard drives, but when guys on the PGA Tour are hitting eight irons over 200 yards, something has to be done. Legends like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer even agree on that point.
For now, it's time for Bradley, Els, Scott and Simpson to figure out a new way to putt. Els is already in the Hall of Fame, so his legacy is fine. Scott, 32, is the oldest of the other three. They all have a long career ahead of them.
Or do they? If they can't putt with a regular putter, what happens to them? They're still major champions, but that only carries so much weight.
Some have pointed out that it should only take 60 days to learn a new putting stroke.
Start now, boys, and you'll have that new stroke mastered for Friday, July 19. Guess what? That happens to be the Friday of this year's British Open. Imagine that.
MCDOWELL BECOMING A MATCH PLAY MASTER
The U.S. Ryder Cup team has had trouble in recent years winning the Cup back from the Europeans. Part of the reason is the abundance of stellar match play players on the European team.
Ian Poulter (12-3-0), Sergio Garcia (16-8-4) and Luke Donald (10-4-1) head that group. But it is one of their teammates that has been turning heads in match play this year.
Graeme McDowell had struggled in his few appearances at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. This year, he posted a 3-1 record as he lost in the quarterfinals.
Last weekend, the 2010 U.S. Open champion won all six of his matches at the Volvo World Match Play Championship. That raised his record in that event to a staggering 14-2.
In the 2011, McDowell lost in the quarterfinals, which gave him a 3-1 mark for the week. Last year, he fell in the finals, meaning he went 5-1
His combined record in the two match play events stands at 20-9. He is also 2-1 in three singles matches at the Ryder Cup, and owns a 5-5-2 overall record in that event.
The Americans need to add more match play tournaments if they want to keep up with this group. McDowell would probably star at that event, too.
Maybe they shouldn't invite him?
* In a week when there was a 61, a 62 and four 63s, it is no wonder all sorts of records fell at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic. The 54-hole scoring record fell, and Jennifer Johnson fired a 65 in the final round to smash the 72-hole scoring record by four strokes. Twelve players finished at 16-under par or better, and they combined for only 10 rounds in the 70s. Of those 10, just two (72 and 73) were of par or worse.
* Sang-Moon Bae claimed his first PGA Tour title on Sunday at the Byron Nelson Championship. He became the fourth Korean-born player to win on the PGA Tour, and extended a streak in which there has been at least one Korean-born winner on tour each year since 2005.