Greenbrier Classic: Anchored putter ban gets mixed reviews
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Monday's announcement out of a brief meeting of the PGA Tour Policy Board might not have been welcomed, but it certainly wasn't unexpected.
The PGA Tour opted to follow the lead of the USGA and golf's governing body, the R&A (Royal and Ancient Club), to ban anchored strokes beginning Jan. 1, 2016, taking away the ability of players to use their body to anchor a putting motion.
Although players have two-plus years to change the way they putt, some golfers didn't take the news well.
"Obviously I'm disappointed," said Carl Pettersson, who will tee off at 12:50 p.m. Thursday from the No. 10 tee at the fourth annual Greenbrier Classic. "I've used one for 16 years, but, rules are rules and I'll just have to adapt."
The PGA Tour announced that the USGA's ban on anchored strokes, known as Rule 14-1b, will apply to PGA Tour competitions.
"In making its decision, the Policy Board recognized that there are still varying opinions among our membership, but ultimately concluded that while it is an important issue, a ban on anchored strokes would not fundamentally affect a strong presentation of our competitions or the overall success of the PGA Tour," Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a press release. "The Board also was of the opinion that having a single set of rules on acceptable strokes applicable to all professional competitions worldwide was desirable and would avoid confusion."
The USGA and R&A announced the proposed ban back in November 2012, then, following a comment period, the governing bodies announced on May 21 that the ban would go into effect on the first day of 2016.
However, according to Adam Schupak of GolfWeek, the PGA Tour board asked the USGA to consider prolonging the anchored putting ban on amateurs to 2024 instead of 2016.
The opinions on its affect on the growth of the game and the play of golfers are varying.
Pettersson - a five-time winner on the PGA Tour - is one of a handful of players in the 156-player Classic field to utilize the long putter, anchoring it either to their sternum or belly - hence, the name "belly putter."
"Sixteen years is a long time, but I'll see it as a challenge and get on with it," said the 35-year-old Pettersson, who turned pro in 2000 and hasn't used a standard putting strategy since he was an amateur.
When 13-time West Virginia Amateur champion Pat Carter switched to the belly putter last year, he wanted to know what all the hubbub was about.
"It's not an issue," said Carter, who is 45 years old and earned his spot in the Classic field via his 13th State Amateur title last year. "I always was a good putter. Everyone was doing it, so I said I'm going to try it. I probably have improved a little bit. But, if I go back to the short putter, I'll have improved with that. I think it does help your stroke."
Keegan Bradley, who had committed to the Classic but last week pulled out, has three wins on the PGA Tour including the 2011 PGA Championship. He, Masters champion Adam Scott - who is not in the Greenbrier Classic Field - and Webb Simpson, who will tee off at 7:50 a.m. Thursday from the No. 10 tee at the Old White TPC, have been vocal in their support of anchored putting.
Much less vocal have been Pettersson, and 34-year-old Canadian David Hearn, who has twice finished in the top 20 at the Greenbrier Classic.
"Obviously I feel I putt better with it," said Hearn, who was tied for 18th in 2011 and tied for 12th last year at the Classic. "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."
Then there are the veterans, who don't share the opinion of Pettersson, Hearn and others.
Greenbrier Owner Jim Justice, who has participated in the State Amateur and has played with Sam Snead, said there is a competitive advantage using the anchored putting style.
"It just stabilizes part of the swing itself," Justice 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?"
Nick Faldo, the six-time major championship winner and CBS sports golf analyst, sat next to Justice on Tuesday and reiterated his approval of the PGA Tour's decision.
"I've been all for it," he said. "I can understand and see what we want you to do, really go back to the original intentions of the game. It's called a golf swing, not a golf hinge. That was the way it was intended to golf, both hands."
For this week, Pettersson, Hearn and Simpson will grab their long putters, anchor them to their bodies, and follow through with a putting stroke that Carter said helps you "keep your line."
When the Greenbrier Classic returns to the Old White TPC for the seventh time in 2016, the anchored putters will be a thing of the past and Justice said that's a good thing.
"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," he said. "We just need the game, the time-honored game that brought us to where we are today."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.