Count two bandleaders of the belly putter brigade as opposed to an anticipated ban on the way they and countless colleagues maneuver the long sticks that have become integral parts of their short games.
Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson are putting their dueling gut putters to the test this week at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, a 36-hole reward for the four major winners. Both have tinkered with conventional flat sticks and will be ready for any modification regarding their favored mallets the USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club may make to the Rules of Golf.
But that doesn’t mean they have to like it.
"I'm friends with a lot of the R&A guys and the USGA guys. It's nothing personal and I know they are trying to do it for the betterment of the game," U.S. Open winner Simpson told reporters on Monday, ahead of Tuesday’s start to the two-day exhibition at Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, Bermuda. "But I don't think it's a good decision."
Bradley, standing in for the absent PGA champ, Rory McIlroy, agreed with his bellied brother.
"It hurts a little bit, the fact that the governing bodies are basically banning it because of such great play," Bradley told Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” program last week. "You've got guys on tour that have been putting with these for 15-20 years....I don't know that it's the right move to just all of a sudden ban these clubs to us that have been using them for a long time."
Observers expect golf’s governing units not to outlaw the putters themselves, but instead implement a change to the way players “anchor” the long wands to their stomachs, chests, and any other parts of their bodies. USGA executive director Mike Davis told Golfweek last week that a possible ban -- which the USGA and R&A are likely to announce by the end of the year -- had gained support from the general public. With changes to the Rules of Golf made every four years, such an alteration would take hold in 2016.
Bradley, the first of three PGA Tour golfers to win majors with belly putters, said a while ago that he would have no trouble switching out his Odyssey White Hot XG Sabertooth for a club that does not cause traditionalists such agita.
“I putted with a short putter all growing up. I'm not scared at all to have to putt with a short putter,” Bradley told reporters prior to the start of August’s Bridgestone Invitational -- a tourney that Adam Scott won a year earlier with an even longer, broom-style blade. “Belly putter for me is just a comfortable way to putt. I just feel comfortable with it. For some people, they don't.”
Since Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship with his big baton, Simpson won his country’s national championship and Ernie Els bellied his way to the British Open title.
Simpson, for his part, believes the oversized putters provide no competitive edge for its users.
“Look at the facts,” he said, “last year there was no one in the top 20 of strokes-gained category [the statistic the PGA Tour uses to measure putting prowess] that anchored a putter.
"So the argument of, `It's an advantage,' you have to throw that out there," he said. "There's a bunch of arguments going around but I haven't heard a good one yet."
Simpson also said that he, like Bradley, would not be caught unawares should an anchoring ban go into effect.
“I'm not worried about it. I'm ready, and if they do it for next year, I'll be ready,” said Simpson.