Rumors say it is nearly certain that the USGA and R&A will ban the anchoring belly and long putters. But will the PGA Tour follow suit? As many as 30% of Tour players have used or are using the long stick. There were 43 long or belly putters in use in the 156 man field in the 2012 Open Championship. Given that, I think it is possible that the PGA Tour policy board parts with golf’s ruling bodies on this issue.
The problem with not switching is that it would force Tour players to change their putters for at least the US Open and the Open Championship. I assume that the PGA of America would also ban the anchoring putter from the PGA Championship. There’s no telling what Augusta National would do. I suspect that they’ll also conform.
That would still leave some 40 official money events in which players could use their favored stick. And it is in those 40 events in which the players make the vast majority of their money. Majors or Money? Don’t let the players’ talk fool you. They’ll play for the money if that’s the choice.
I believe that the USGA and R&A made a terrible mess of this by not acting much, much earlier. If the anchoring putter is illegal, they should not have looked the other way while a few players were using it. There are some players—such as Keegan Bradley—who have never used any other stick or technique.
The genesis of the inaction may be the Ping – USGA legal wars from twenty years ago. A disagreement between the manufacturer and the USGA over grooves led to lawsuits and eventually, an out-of-court settlement. But from everything I’ve read, if Ping had not relented, the USGA would likely have lost in court. Worse for the USGA it seems that not only was the organization being sued, but several leaders of the USGA were named as individuals. That put them at personal risk.
Since then, I think that there have been a number of opportunities for the USGA to step in, particularly with regards to the ball. Inaction, however, has been the name of the game.
The questions now: will the USGA and R&A act against the interests of a sizable portion of the professional golfing public? And will the professional tours fall in line?