Webb Simpson’s U.S. Open Win Puts Belly Putters Back On Hot Seat

Belly putters be gone? That seems to be the wish of Royal & Ancient honcho Peter Dawson, but his USGA counterpart, Mike Davis, may not be so quick to ban the belly.

The golf world appeared to offer a collective yawn about the Ping G5i Craz-E Long belly putter Webb Simpson maneuvered around Olympic Club on his way to winning last week’s U.S. Open. Certainly, the outrage that followed when Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major championship with an oversized flat stick was missing.

Now, however, comes word that long putters are the subject of “intense discussions” within golf’s governing bodies, the USGA and Royal & Ancient, according to Graham Spiers, who hosts the BBC’s “The Golf Show.” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson, in particular, appeared ready to take the big bats out of the hands, stomachs and chests of such PGA Tour winners players as Simpson, Bradley, Matt Kuchar and Adam Scott.

The “anchoring” of the putter against a belly or other part of a golfer’s body was the issue that apparently set Dawson’s teeth on edge.

“Another way of putting this is, it is not a pure putting stroke, as golf has intended over hundreds of years,” Spiers wrote on Thursday after interviewing Dawson for his show. “My hunch is that, down the line, this club will eventually be outlawed.”

Should a golfer win the upcoming British Open with a putter that players ranging from Tiger Woods to Ernie Els to James Driscoll believe should be banned, Dawson might go over the edge.

“At a time when the governing body feels, at best, uneasy about its use, here would be a high-profile champion in effect telling the world: 'Look what you can do with this thing!'” Spiers said.

Spiers, himself a proponent of outlawing the magic wands, exhorted the R&A to banish the oversized club before it gained more traction among recreational golfers, who are boosting sales of vendors who manufacture the long blades and retailers who sell them.

“The designers and manufacturers make their money, not from what the pros are doing, but by the number of Joe Publics who want to copy them,” Spiers said. “Even if the uptake is gradual, belly-putters are becoming more popular.

“If the R&A wish to sort this they better make their decision sooner rather than later,” Spiers opined. “Otherwise, a novelty -- to some a gimmick -- will start to look like the norm.”

We might suggest that such a “gimmick” is certainly the “norm” among tour players, who last year rode their big sticks to the winner’s circle nine times, according to PGATour.com, and have gripped them in four of 26 wins so far in 2012: Bill Haas (Northern Trust Open), Carl Pettersson (RBC Heritage), Matt Kuchar (The Players Championship), and of course, Simpson.

Long putter proponents may not have to worry just yet, however, as USGA executive director Mike Davis, appeared not quite so anxious to ban the belly as his R&A counterpart. Davis told Golf Digest on Thursday that the two groups would take their time in determining the future of anchored devices but could pronounce their judgment by the end of the year.

Davis also said Simpson’s Open win with putter in belly would have “zero effect” on the organizations’ decision, which, should it change, would become law no sooner than 2016, when the next official revision of the Rules of Golf is due from the USGA and R&A.

"It really boils down to whether we believe this is the right thing for the future of the game,” Davis said.

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