Rules chiefs set to step up efforts to ban use of long putters
THE use of long putters will be outlawed by 2016.
Golf's world governing bodies were discussing a course of action before Ernie Els on Sunday became the third winner in four Majors to use a long putter, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson insisted yesterday morning.
"This decision has not been taken but I think we are going to say something in the next few months rather than years," said Dawson, with September's meeting between the R&A and USGA seen as the most likely occasion.
Els uses a belly putter, while Adam Scott, the Australian whose collapse over the final four holes of Sunday's British Open handed the South African the Claret Jug, wields an enormous broomhandle.
It's the first time the top two finishers at a Major used long putters. Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington both say long putters should be banned, suggesting the putter to be the shortest club in the bag.
However, the game's rulers are considering a different tack. "We are examining the subject from a method-of-stroke standpoint rather than length-of-putter standpoint," said Dawson.
This almost certainly will involve an amendment to the rules which prohibits anchoring a club to any part of the body, either stomach, chest, chin or, as Matt Kuchar currently does, the forearm.
As a rule change, it cannot be implemented until the next rule book is published in January 2016 under the four-year cycle operated by the governing bodies. So long putters will not be banned, per se.
Asked for data on the general use of long putters on Tour, Dawson said: "We do monitor it. I think the biggest event last year was something like 21pc, but it seems to be averaging about 14-15pc."
Yet 27 players used broomhandles during the British Open and 16 played with belly putters, representing 27.5pc of the 156-man field at Lytham.
Dawson went on: "It hasn't yet backed its way all the way down the game, although statistics would show -- and I've checked this with the manufacturers -- that at the club or recreational level, they are much more used in the US than anywhere else in the world."
He insisted that any rule barring belly putters in no way would reflect on Els or any other player who uses one to win a Major in the interim.
"It doesn't detract in any way from the winner as long as he obeys the rules of play at the time," Dawson said. "Bobby Jones (winner of the first Open at Lytham in 1926) used concave-faced clubs for some of his Major championships and they were outlawed later but his victories are in no way demeaned as a result of that."