Those playing professional golf at the highest level are doing so because they have more talent than anyone else playing the sport. But there’s more to making a living on the PGA or European Tour than having more God-given talent than the next guy.
Sure, they can hit the ball further, make the ball do what they want on command and have high golf IQs. But they are also more creative and innovative than other players who would love to be playing on golf’s most glamorous stages.
And that’s what will make Wednesday’s announcement (via ESPN) of the proposed Rule 14-1b a mere blip on golf’s landscape by the time it takes effect Jan. 1, 2016. The no-anchoring ban, as explained by Mike Davis and Peter Dawson, the headliners of the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, respectively, raised the expected furor not long after details emerged.
There had been plenty of rumors over the last few months about the rule change, not to mention lots of comments. When the announcement was made, Davis and Dawson said the intent was to clarify exactly what a “stroke” was in terms of the long and belly putters. They said this explanation should help eliminate confusion and protect the game and its intent for the future.
Because the proposal does not attempt to outlaw the putters themselves, the threat of legal action by players against the rule is diminished greatly. The howling, however, hasn’t diminished, and the early returns seem to indicate that the feelings on the subject are still as divisive as ever.
Check out the list of tweets that golfchannel.com has been compiling since this morning.
Remember when I said, earlier in this piece, that the pros are very creative and innovative on the golf course as they try to make a living? Well, that’s exactly what’s going to make this a non-issue by the time it goes into effect.
These guys will figure it out. They’ll create new ways to wave those broomsticks. They’ll innovate.
When you and I hit a drive down the right side of a fairway and are blocked out by some trees from seeing the green and have to figure out how to get the ball up quickly enough to clear the trees but hit it far enough to cover the creek that winds in front of the green, we’ll chip it out and hope to get up and down for four.
The tour players use their raw talent, experience and creativity, in most cases, to give themselves a chance for birdie.
Throughout the morning, it was mentioned several times that Webb Simpson, winner of the 2011 U.S. Open Championship with a long putter, has already begun practicing with a traditional length putter in anticipation of this ruling.
That would be an extreme reaction, since the proposed rule says nothing about the long putter becoming illegal. Players can continue to use it, as long as they don’t anchor it in their bellies, chests or chins.
Will it be easy to find a stroke that will hold up under Sunday pressure without the definite aid of the long stick being anchored like a fulcrum?
No, sir, it won’t be. But playing golf at an elite level, where a million dollars is on the line, should not necessarily be easy.
Davis and Dawson both said this proposed rule was not based on any performance data that shows non-traditional putters necessarily mean better putting. But there have been several players over the years—Orville Moody, Paul Azinger, Rocco Mediate, Adam Scott, Carl Petterson—whose games and results have definitely improved after going non-traditional.
One of the best putters on the PGA Tour over the last decade or so, Steve Stricker, told ESPN.com’s Bob Harig that there’s definitely an advantage.
"Any time you can take your arms and hands out of it, especially your hands, I think when you anchor it in your chest is a huge advantage," Stricker, who uses a conventional putter, said. "There's going to be a lot of upset people, a lot of guys that have putted with a long putter for a long time, and I have a feeling they're going to have something to say about the rule."
After watching the tour players tear up a 7,300-yard course a few years ago, a friend of mine once said, “You tell these guys to go outside here and tee it up on the highway. Tell them the next hole is five miles away and it’s a par four. They’ll find a way to make par.”
A bit of an exaggeration, of course, but the point is that the best players in the world will find a way to get it done. The proposed rule announcement today was probably long overdue, but it is what it is. You’ll see guys figure it out over the next three years. Those who don’t will struggle, but there won’t be many of those.
They can keep playing with the long sticks, but they also have plenty of time to figure out how to do it in a way that will be rules-friendly in 2016.
Does anyone remember how the outlawing of square grooves a couple years ago was going to dramatically change the game?