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Rich Stevens: Anchors might be away, but that's OK

There won't be a noticeable difference at the Greenbrier next week when the 94th State Amateur unfolds on the Old White TPC and Greenbrier courses.

Basically, the same characters will be on hand in search of their 14th title (Pat Carter), first (Sam O'Dell) or somewhere in between.

The 72-hole event gives many of the younger golfers an opportunity to experience a four-day championship, when sleeping in a hotel and remaining focused without a day off can determine whether or not they're built for the rigors of a pro golf career.

Making the cut is the first goal, going low on the third day is the second and being in the hunt for the final 18 is the third.

For Hurricane's Sam O'Dell, winning a West Virginia Golf Association "major" - the Open or Amateur - has become job one for the guy who is awfully good at competitive golf, but keeps it as a non-paying, second career.

He is the poster child for the argument against anchoring the putter, even if he agrees with the decision to make the practice illegal.

"I think it's the right move," said the 35-year-old O'Dell. "I don't disagree with it. That gives me three more amateurs before that happens."

Putter anchoring will be outlawed in USGA and PGA events beginning in 2016, giving West Virginia guys who have never won the Amateur and rely so heavily on the belly putter (i.e. O'Dell) three more tries to get the coveted championship.

Amateur players aren't making a living off the golf gig, but there's no option but to create a uniform rule for putting.

If you watch a player putt using an anchored style, you can immediately see the benefits. Anchoring the end of the putter into your sternum - or belly - helps the club keep its line. Instead of the arms maintaining the line to the hole, the responsibility falls on the body - a more stable center.

I'm not telling you something you didn't already know, but it gives a clearer reason why it's being outlawed.

The general consensus from players in the WVGA is that O'Dell could struggle using a short putter. My initial impression was to agree with that assessment, but now I'm not sure.

During the Greenbrier Classic, Carter said companies would most certainly come up with something to help players adjust, whether the club is weighted differently or the grips are altered.

O'Dell is counting on it.

"I'm hoping they come out with something," O'Dell said after finishing second in the Open last month in Parkersburg. "I'll probably get a little bigger grip and putt with a long putter, kind of like what Matt Kuchar does."

Kuchar uses a long putter but doesn't anchor it; instead he chokes up - or down, as it were - on the grip, with the hands toward the middle of the club. The club becomes part of the arms.

"I may just putt with it straight up and get the counter balance of a heavy putter," he said. "I think I'll be alright.

"I went with it (long putter) when I couldn't pull the putter back. "Now, they have heavier weighted putters and different grips. I'll get over it and be confident over it."

O'Dell's putting style is much like that of PGA Tour player Adam Scott.

The PGA Tour's Tim Clark, on the other hand, has a disability that - he says - requires anchoring the putter. Clark said he has a congenital arm issue in which he cannot supinate his forearms. That is, he can't rotate his hand or forearm so that the palm faces up. He admitted in an interview with Golf Channel's Todd Lewis that it's "extremely hard to putt with tight forearms."

Clark used the word "flabbergasting" when it was suggested that anchoring eliminates nervous twitches - the yips.

It certainly doesn't take away the yips for everybody, but the argument that anchoring the putter against your body doesn't help with twitching is flabbergasting to me.

Anchoring the putter can't make a good putter great, but it can certainly make a below-average putter good. Remember, drive for show and putt for dough.

Nevertheless, Clark suggests that he wouldn't want to be "the only guy using something out there," in reference to an anchored putter.

That's good, because rule changes often require all of us to alter the way we do things to make a living.

When it comes to guys like O'Dell, winning the Amateur is more about pride and bragging rights (and having a good reason to take off a week of work to play golf).

For those who rely on playing four days to make money and pay bills, it's a different story.

Much has been made about this rule change considered dramatic by many, but certainly welcomed by some - Tiger Woods, for example.

O'Dell has seven top 10 finishes at the Amateur, lost in the playoff for runner-up in 2011 with a Greenbrier Classic exemption on the line and tied for fourth last year.

He's not running out of time, as he assessed after last month's Open.

Still, I'll be interested to see if he puts more pressure on himself to win considering the impending uncertainty with changing putting styles.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at or 304-348-4837.



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