Rory McIlroy supports anchored putting ban -- sort of

Andy Lyons

Rory McIlroy, saying he kinda, sorta agreed with the proposed ban on anchored putting but also believed the USGA and R&A’s plan was a “knee-jerk reaction” to the successes of Keegan Bradley and other belly putter users, has issued a plea for unity on the whole shebang.

Meanwhile, Bradley -- the first golfer to win a major title with a flat stick shoved into his gut -- just wants the noise to stop. And for the love of all that is sacred in the game of golf, stop labeling the 2011 PGA champ a miscreant.

“I'm being called a cheater more than ever by fans, by some writers...and it's really tough,” Bradley told reporters Tuesday. “I can't imagine how people can say that to me or to anybody out here. It's been really difficult, and I'm sick of it to be honest. I'm ready to be over it.”

McIlroy uses a conventional putter so he is not a target of hecklers too ignorant to understand that the ban (should it be enacted) would not take effect until 2016. Despite that, he also sounded weary of the brouhaha golf’s regulators instigated with their wrong-headed proposal and that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem stirred up with Sunday’s nationally televised defiance of the prospective ban.

"It's just a bit of a mess,” McIlroy said Tuesday about the USGA and R&A’s proposal and subsequent blowback from the tour and the PGA of America, among others. “It's just opened a can of worms with it.”

The two golfers, who will compete in this week’s Honda Classic, made their remarks with Thursday’s deadline for comments on the proposed ban fast approaching -- and in the wake of Finchem’s announcement that his tour officially opposed the prohibition. Finchem said he spoke for 13 of 15 members of the Players Advisory Council who were anti-ban and, though he offered some sketchy reasoning for launching his all-out PR offensive during the finale of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, he noted, “You can’t point to one negative impact of anchoring.”

The situation could get especially dicey since observers believe the European Tour, which has yet to make public its views, will go along with whatever the rules-makers decide. Former European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie called Finchem’s move “very dangerous,” and indicated the havoc two sets of rules could wreak on the game.

“In my view, the long putter -- whether it should have been banned 20 years ago or not -- should be banned now, and I think [R&A chief executive] Peter Dawson is dead right, I think [executive director] Mike Davis of the USGA is dead right as well,” Monty said on Sky Sports Sunday. “The pair of them have got together with their committees and decided this is the rules of golf and we should abide by that. To now go against that and say, 'Right, well, my players aren't going to go by that and we're going to have a local rule where you can anchor the putter,' then what happens?"

No question that such an eventuality offers the potential for bedlam, with golfers able to anchor their clubs in PGA Tour events but not in Europe or in USGA/R&A-sanctioned tourneys like the U.S. and British Opens. There are a few directions the debate may take.

Though Bradley has backed off from heated remarks he made immediately after the governors handed down their proposal in November, the possibility of lawsuits against an eventual ban remains an option. The overlords could also avoid all such nonsense and simply rescind their bid.

While Bradley has become the poster child for anchored putting, McIlroy’s ban-it-or-don’t-but-please-stop-fighting entreaty no doubt summed up the feelings of most watchers of and participants in the anchored-putting scrum.

Indeed, while golf’s No. 1 was hesitant to take a side in the fight (though he originally supported the ban), he wondered Tuesday why we all just can’t get along.

"I saw what Tim Finchem had to say at the end of last week, and it seems like the European Tour is going to go a different way," he said. "I read a thing that Monty said this divide isn't good for golf, and I don't think it is.

“I think,” McIlroy concluded, “we all need to be on one side or the other.”

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