Golf 2013: Will it be anchors away or not? Stay tuned ...

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Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell is among the players who think the long putter should be banned. Others such as Fred Couples, who uses the long putter to assist his ailing back, think using the long club is fine and should not be outlawed.

And then there is Gary Player, who thinks the long putter should be banned for use by professional players but not for recreational players who might enjoy using the club.

But there is not just division among the players about the use of the long putter. It has reached golf's highest level, with the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in favor of banning the practice of "anchoring" the putter and the PGA Tour and the PGA of America in favor of keeping it legal for players to use the long putter.

At debate is not necessarily the length of the putter, but the stroke of using the long putter, which requires the player to "anchor" the putter against his sternum or stomach.

"It's all about putting around a fixed pivot point, whether that fixed pivot point is in your belly or under your chin or on your chest," said R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.

The USGA and the R&A have given players a three-year period in which to abandon the practice of anchoring.

The issue of anchoring reached a boiling point last year after three of the past four major champions -- Keegan Bradley, Web Simpson and Ernie Els used -- the long putter.

Curiously, the only PGA Tour winner this year to use the long putter is Matt Kuchar, but he doesn't anchor the long putter against his sternum. Rather, he rests it against his left arm.

"If it was easier or if it was a guarantee to make more putts, all 156 players in the field would be using one," said Greensburg native Rocco Mediate, who was the first player to win a PGA Tour event (1991 Doral Ryder Open) using the long putter. "It's obviously not that. I've missed plenty of putts with a long putter and a short putter that I wanted to make just like everybody else. If they're doing it because they think it's [an] advantage, then they made a mistake because it's not an advantage because we'd all be using one."

Els won the British Open last year using the long putter and taking only 122 putts, fewest in the field. The next-closest was runnerup Adam Scott, who took 124 putts and also used the long putter as an anchor.

If the division among the ruling bodies continues, players such as Els will be faced with using the long putter on the PGA Tour but switching to a conventional putter -- or, at least, a conventional stroke method -- when they play in European events governed by the R&A. That includes the British Open.

"I understand the reasoning and whatever the USGA says is cool by me," said Mediate, who has switched back and forth from the long putter to the short putter. "I said that back when I started with it. If they made it illegal in 1992, I'm fine with that. But some of these guys have learned to putt with the long putter or belly putter, and they're worried sick. But, if the rules are the rules, you have to deal with it."

Arnold Palmer decried the use of the long putter several weeks ago at his invitational tournament at Bay Hill, saying he was not in favor of "contraptions." But he also said there should be one set of rules for all players, not separate rules for tour players and amateurs. That is a position advocated by Player.

"To have that happen ... would set a bad precedent," Jack Nicklaus said. "I hope that doesn't happen. If the USGA and R&A say, 'No, we're going to go forward with it, I hope the [PGA] tour says, OK, we've always played by USGA rules, we will continue to play by USGA rules.'"

golf

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com; twitter: @gerrydulac


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