Mixed views on belly ban from players at US event

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wednesday’s proposal by golf’s rulemakers to ban long putters being anchored to a player’s body was mainly welcomed by players at the World Challenge, although some expressed disappointment.

In a bid to preserve the “skill and challenge” of putting, the R&A and USGA said they wanted to outlaw the practice of anchoring by 2016. While three of the last five major champions have used long “belly” putters, the move by the game’s ruling bodies has been prompted mainly by the number of younger 
players now taking advantage of anchoring.

“I think it’s in the best nature of the game,” Matt Kuchar, who uses a mid-length putter, said while preparing for the opening round at Sherwood Country Club. “The game was not intended to be played that way [anchoring]. The game was intended to be played in a way that you control both ends of the club with every shot.”

Intriguingly, Kuchar uses a putting stroke which would not be outlawed by the rulemakers’ proposals since his putter rests against his left arm and not against his chest, stomach or chin.

The proposed Rule 14-1b states (in part): “The club is anchored ‘directly’ when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.”

American Keegan Bradley, the first player to win a major using the anchoring technique when he triumphed at the 
2011 PGA Championship, was among those unhappy about the likely change.

“In the next couple of years, I’m really going to have to 
figure out a way that’s best for me to putt,” he said. “I’m obviously not happy with the ruling but I respect the USGA.

“They make the rules, and I’ll adjust appropriately. I’m going to accept the challenge and, hopefully, do well when they do ban it.”

Former world No 1 and 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples expressed some dissatisfaction with the proposal, along with confusion over the precise definition of anchoring. “I do use a belly putter and, when I started, I used it for my back,” said Couples, who has limited his playing schedule in recent seasons due to lingering back injuries.

“I push back into my belly and lean over to a certain point. Now will it [the putter] touch my belly once in a while? Yeah, but it’s not really anchored so I don’t really know if that is affected by the rule.

“So far they [rulemakers] haven’t screwed up the game and I don’t think this will screw it up. But I feel bad for a lot of the younger players who have never done it any other way.”