RBC Heritage

Anchored putters fighting for permanent spot on PGA Tour

Long putters, belly putters seem to be winning a lot these days

sfastenau@islandpacket.comApril 18, 2013 

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PGA Tour golfer Tim Clark uses his long putter to sink a putt at the No. 17 hole Wednesday afternoon during the Pro-Am at the 45th RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

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Webb Simpson missed the cut at the Masters this past week, part of an ongoing tough stretch since winning last year's U.S. Open.

But he watched Adam Scott win the green jacket. And though the long-putter wielding Scott did not know how his victory might sway an upcoming decision on the future of anchored putters, Simpson thinks Scott's win struck a positive note for anchoring supporters.

"Because, I mean, it was a great Masters," said Simpson, who used a belly putter to win the U.S. Open and is competing in his fifth consecutive Heritage. "Nobody's going to remember he used a long putter. They're going to remember the playoff."

Anchored putters -- either putters placed in the belly or long putters swung like a pendulum -- have claimed three of the past four major championships. The United States Golf Association and R&A proposed a ban on anchored strokes this past fall, allowing a comment period to measure the pulse of the decision.

A final ruling is expected late this spring. Golf's ruling bodies didn't offer any news during the Masters, and Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne declined to take a stance on behalf of the club.

"Given the fact that the ruling bodies have not yet declared a decision following that open comment period, I do think it would be inappropriate for us to express an opinion, other than to say that we hope and believe that they can reach common ground so that golf will continue under one set of rules," Payne said.

Scott's victory completed a recent grand slam that includes Simpson, Ernie Els, who won the 2012 British Open with a belly putter, and Keegan Bradley, who used a belly putter to win the 2011 PGA Championship.

Els, who originally declared anchored putters cheaters, has flipped his opinion since switching to the belly putter. He planned to switch back to a traditional putter after the Masters, but finished third in putting last week and kept his Odyssey belly putter in the bag at Harbour Town Golf Links.

Els has worked with visualization coach Sherylle Calder, who he credited after his British Open victory.

"I thought ... I could make more putts from 15 feet, 20 to 25 feet with the short putter," Els said. "But since working with Sherylle now, again, I'm very comfortable with the long putter."

Els said the putters have become a part of the game's landscape and fall under the same category as large, titanium drivers and the ever-improving golf ball.

"I just want to do the right thing," Els said. "Who knows what the right thing is? I don't think it's to ban it. It's become such a big part of the game."

Simpson and other supporters of the anchored putter said they didn't have any sense of what ruling might come down. The proposed ban wouldn't go into effect until 2016, giving players plenty of time to re-adopt the traditional stroke.

But they believe momentum is on their side, with Scott furthering the cause.

"I haven't heard a whole lot," Simpson said. "But it certainly makes it more interesting now that he won."

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