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USGA: Take the target off Keegan Bradley’s back

December 3rd, 2012 · 4 Comments

Before the USGA’s upcoming ban on anchoring, golf’s ruling body had yet to voice their true opinion on the practice. Because of this, a sizeable and vocal minority felt that wins by those who anchored should not be marginalized in any way.

That all changed on November 28 when the USGA not only banned the practice, which is to go into effect on January 1, 2016, but made their feelings about anchoring quite clear.

Peter Dawson of the R&A: “Our concern is that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional putting strokes which are integral to the longstanding character of the sport.”

Mike Davis of the USGA: “Throughout the 600-year history of golf, the essence of playing the game has been to grip the club with the hands and swing it freely at the ball. The player’s challenge is to control the movement of the entire club in striking the ball, and anchoring the club alters the nature of that challenge. Our conclusion is that the Rules of Golf should be amended to preserve the traditional character of the golf swing by eliminating the growing practice of anchoring the club.”

Their position on anchoring takes precedence over the timing of the implementation of the ban to the point where any thinking player who anchors would immediately ditch the practice and get in line with the spirit of the ruling. Furthermore, any player who continues to anchor should not be surprised if he meets with a negative response from his peers in the locker-room, and from fans out on the course and on the Twitter-verse.

Still, when a fan called Keegan Bradley a cheater this weekend at the World Challenge, the USGA felt compelled to issue this rather strange apology:

“As we noted when announcing proposed Rule 14-1b, it has been and remains entirely within the Rules of Golf for players to anchor the club while making a stroke. There should not be a shred of criticism of such players or any qualification or doubt about their achievements, and we think that it is inappropriate even to suggest anything to the contrary. “

No shred of criticism, or doubt about their achievements? For a player who continues to use a technique that is at odds with “the traditional character of the golf swing.” Good luck with that. According to a poll on Geoffshackelford.com, 65% of the voters agreed with the ban, so many of his readers and similarly minded fans can be expected to bash those who anchor on in advance of the implementation of the new rule.

“I won’t view the wins as tainted, but some of those who think anchoring is cheating surely will,” said SI’s Charlie Hanger. And many fans will marginalize anchor putter aided wins in the future as well as the three majors that were literally stolen by Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, and Ernie Els from the rightful victors.

One sure way to eliminate heckling and tainted wins is to move up the implementation of Rule 14-1b from the scheduled date three years from now. Gary Player feels that Rule 14-1b should go into effect on January 1, 2013. In another poll at geoffshackleford.com 41% of voters agreed with Player. Sixteen percent chose the Frys.com event in October, while another 33% selected January 1, 2014. In sum, 90% voted for implementation within 13 months. Only 10% of the electorate thought that the USGA should wait until the scheduled date, which is 37 long months from now.

My vote goes for immediate implementation so we can take that target off poor Keegan’s back – and so that it will be impossible for these spirit deficient golfers to complete the Anchored Slam at next year’s Masters.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 BD // Dec 6, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Anybody who would heckle a player on the course out of concern for the spirit of the game is either a fool or a hypocrite. Since when is heckling in keeping with the spirit of the game?

    Also, just because the use of an anchored putter is not in keeping with the traditional “character” of the golf swing doesn’t mean that anyone who uses a long putter is a person of bad moral “character.” Same word; two different meanings. The USGA has made it clear that, in their view, there’s no reason to treat Keegan Bradley et al as cheaters or anything of the sort. Therefore, one cannot logically argue that because of what the USGA says about LPs, Bradley and other users of the long putter ARE in fact cheaters. Either you accept the USGA as authoritative or you don’t; you can’t pick and choose which of these pronouncements is definitive.

    Unless they do, in fact, move up the deadline, I see no reason to treat golfers who use the LP this year as bad guys for doing something that everyone agrees is legal. That would be like calling people tax cheats just because they pay the old tax rate that are still in effect before the new rates take effect.

    Now, if people want to metally discount Bradley’s major win, or subjectively regard him as a lesser golfer than some of the non-LP-using guys he beat, then I’m fine with that. For example, I don’t think Jim Rice deserves to be in the Baseball HoF because I think his numbers were largely a product of the park he played in. On the other hand, I don’t think the very fact he’s in the HoF, and didn’t just refuse the honor, makes him a bad guy who should be heckled. I don’t think he sould have been inducted, but I can’t begrudge him the honor that he secured through playing the game in accordance with the rules others (not he) established. Same with Keegan Bradley. He didn’t make anchored putting a legal technique in golf, so why is he the scapegoat if it’s the RULE we really object to?

  • 2 phil // Dec 7, 2012 at 6:34 am

    Hi BD – Welcome back. I agree that heckling is not in the spirit of the game – I never said that it was. But it can be expected because fans will, sadly at times, be fans. I am among those who elevate and demote majors in my mind, just as most any fan does. A win is a win, but some wins are special, and some not so much. Again, I think the USGA should move up the deadline rather than waiting for some distant date when they will again reprint the rule book. Today’s world moves way to fast for a 4 year window between revisions and it ignores the ability to update changes instantaneously on the internet.

  • 3 BD // Dec 7, 2012 at 7:17 am

    I agree it makes little sense to delay the rule change until 2016(?). They should move it up to 1/1/14, which would give people the better part of a year to go out and buy a normal-length putter.

    I also agree with your OP to the extent that, once the USGA acts to ban the anchored putter in the future, elite players who continue to use it (especially to WIN majors and other high-profile events) will be in a somewhat awkward position vis-a-vis golf’s traditionalists. I just don’t think those players owe it to those traditionalists or the game generally to stop using the LP prior to the effective date of the rule change. IOW, I’ll defend the right of any player to try to post his best possible score under the rules as they in effect. And anyone loutish enough to heckle a player for doing just that (i.e., playing within the rules) gets no respect from me.

    On a less controversial sub-topic: I’m sure we all tend to mentally adjust a player’s objective record to account for competitive factors we think are important. To take just one example, any player who manages to complete a career grand slam has accomplished something far more worthy of respect than “only” winning four majors. It shows that a player can dominate under a variety of courses and conditions. In a similar vein, if Keegan Bradley (and his ilk) can still win tournaments without a LP, then I think his erstwhile use of the LP will not count against him very much, if at all, in an overall assessment of his career. OTOH, if he’s one-and-done without the LP, then people are naturally going to discount his early success he has had in his career using the broom.

  • 4 phil // Dec 7, 2012 at 7:29 am

    BD – Good point about Keegan (and Webb). Before and After Anchoring. I agree that if they putt well while winning majors without anchoring, then there anchored wins do gain in value, IMO. Els, on the other hand is another case. I see his record as 3 + X. X = who knows what.

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