Putting stroke would be banned under new rule

Golf's governing bodies, worried that players will turn to long putters as an advantage instead of a last resort, proposed a new rule Wednesday that would ban the putting stroke used by three of the last five major champions.

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association said the rule would not outlaw belly putter or broom-handle putters, only the way they are currently used. The proposed rule would make it illegal for golfers to anchor the club while making a stroke and not take effect until 2016.

"More players are using it, and instructors are saying this is a more efficient way to putt because you don't have to control the whole stroke," USGA executive director Mike Davis said. "The game has been around for 600 years. Fundamentally, we don't think this is the right way to go."

Orville Moody won the 1989 U.S. Senior Open using a long putter that he held against his chest, allowing for a pendulum motion. Paul Azinger won the 2000 Sony Open with a putter that he pressed into his belly. Long putters began getting serious attention last year when Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major with a belly putter at the PGA Championship. This year, Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open and Ernie Els won the British Open using belly putters.

Davis and R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said the catalyst for the new rule was not who was winning tournaments, but the number of players switching to long putters.

Their research showed no more than 4 percent of golfers used the clubs for several years. It went to 6 percent in 2006, and then to 11 percent in 2011, with some PGA Tour events having as much as 20 percent of the players using the long clubs. There was no empirical data to suggest a long putter made golf easier. Carl Pettersson (No. 21) and Bradley (No. 27) were the only players among the top 30 in putting this year on the PGA Tour who used long putters.

"We don't think putting in an anchored way is easy. You have to learn how to do it," Dawson said. "But it takes one of the potential frailties out of the stroke."

- Associated Press

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