No. 9: Anchors away for 4 major champions after USGA/R&A approve putter ban for 2016

Matt King

Adam Scott and several other major champions along with everyday professional and amateur golfers who affix long putters to their bodies will have to find more conventional ways to negotiate their flat sticks come Jan. 1, 2016.

Adam Scott made worldwide headlines when, in April, he became the first Australian to win at Augusta. The 33-year-old winner of 10 official PGA Tour events was less celebrated for becoming the first golfer to win a major with a broomstick putter shoved into his sternum.


Scott, among the players to win four of the past nine major titles with long putters, could also be the last (depending on the outcomes of the eight grand slam events in the next two years) to achieve such a feat with what will soon be a verboten putting style. Keegan Bradley began the barrage on traditionalists’ sensibilities when he captured the 2011 PGA Championship with a belly putter in his bag.

Webb Simpson and Ernie Els followed shortly thereafter, with the 28-year-old Simpson chalking up the 2012 U.S. Open and Els, the victor of three previous majors, taking advantage of Scott’s late-inning collapse to secure last year’s British Open. Scott found redemption at the 2013 Masters.

While the stroke so abhorred by so many has been legal for decades, enough was enough for the fusty USGA and R&A. With the backing of heavy-hitting supporters like Tiger Woods, and in the face of heated opposition from the PGA Tour and others, including some who threatened litigation, golf’s governing bodies announced jointly in May that a ban on anchored putting would take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

The pronouncement came some six months after the regulators proposed the rule, a timeframe that included a 90-day comment period during which tour commissioner Tim Finchem upstaged the finale of the WGC-Match Play Championship to proclaim his resistance to the scheme.

Claiming their decision was not in response to major wins by four practitioners of what many consider to be a loathsome putting stroke, the governors jumped through linguistic hoops to justify their ruling.

"The playing rules are definitional: individually and collectively, they reflect what the game is and how it should be played," read a segment of a 30-page document explaining the new Rule 14-b. "For example, a player may not pick up the ball and roll it into the hole. That is not because the rulemakers assessed through statistical or other empirical analysis whether players rolling the ball by hand are more successful than players using a club to strike the ball; rather, it is because rolling the ball with one's hand is simply not 'golf.'"

Scott and his major-winning brethren are not the only professionals (along with amateurs and everyday golfers) who will have to adopt conventional ways of addressing their balls on the greens. Indeed, the reigning Masters champ, who revived his career after switching in 2011 to a long putter, is a newbie to the controversial stroke compared with long-time anchorers like Tim Clark and Carl Pettersson, two of the original "Anchoring Nine" who considered suing the rules makers over the issue.

Scott joined Clark and Pettersson as three of the nine players to go public about their affiliation with a Boston attorney, whom they hired to represent them in the event of a court case. The dissidents eventually decided to forego any legal action after Finchem caved and changed his stance to align with that of the USGA.

Back in March, before he knew for sure what his fate would be, Scott pretty much summed it up for everyone involved.

"We’ll just have to adjust at some point," he said.

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