Rule 14-1b sounds obscure, and it doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2016. But the new United States Golf Association rule that prohibits amateur and professional players in USGA events from anchoring a putter against any part of their bodies continues to reverberate throughout golf, with one top player in contention at the U.S. Senior Open frustrated.
“I just don’t understand,” said Bernhard Langer, who shot a 4-under-par 66 in Friday’s second round at the Del Paso Country Club and is 3 under for the tournament. “I’ve been using (the long putter) for 18 years, and it’s a real issue. If it’s easier, then why are we not seeing more players use it? I don’t see anyone using persimmon woods. And who is using hybrids now? Everyone.”
Langer had some issues with yips in his putting stroke almost two decades ago and switched to a long putter that enables him to grip the top of the club to the center of his chest, with his right hand on the middle of the club. The club then looks as if it’s on a hinge, resulting in a more consistent stroke.
Some PGA and Champions Tour players see that as an advantage. Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have said players should have to swing all 14 clubs allowed in their bags.
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Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior firector, rules of golf and amateur status, also considers anchored putting an advantage and worked for the rule change.
“It was the upsurge in the use of anchored strokes, as well as the growing advocacy by players and instructors, that led to the review and ultimate determination that it is important to preserve the traditional method of making a stroke – to hold the club with the hands and freely swing it – and eliminate the potential advantage that anchoring provides,” Pagel said. “This ensures that all players face the same challenge in the game.”
Colin Montgomerie played the first two rounds of the U.S. Senior Open with Langer and Pat Tallent, who won the 2014 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship and also uses a long putter.
“I would ban Bernhard Langer’s putter immediately, not just in 2016, but probably tomorrow,” Montgomerie joked as Langer stood nearby waiting to be interviewed after Friday’s round. “But, hey, I feel for the guys with anchor putters. I feel for the guys who have done nothing else in their lives but anchored putters.
“No, there’s no advantage either way, I don’t think really. It’s either/or. If you’re happy with that, if you’re more confident using a belly putter or an anchored putter, fine. If you’re not, don’t do it.”
Langer was asked if he would consider moving his left hand an inch or two forward away from his chest so he wouldn’t be in violation of Rule 14-1b next year, as Pagel believes will happen.
“I haven’t really tried that, and that’s what (PGA Tour player) Scott McCarron said he would do,” Langer said. “I talked to him a couple days ago when I played a practice round. But to me, it seems like it may just move a little more, the whole thing. I just don’t understand why we’re banning it 80 years later. It’s as simple as that.”
Langer said he worries about the younger players, too. Will golf be hurt by the impending rule change?
“It’s a foregone conclusion here,” Langer said. “And even though the PGA Tour was against it, the PGA of America was against it, (the USGA) still went ahead with it. We’re trying to grow the game, aren’t we? Has that grown the game? Taking clubs away from amateurs that are trying to enjoy the game, now they can’t use those clubs anymore – has that grown (the game)? I’m just throwing it out there.”
Mark Billingsley: email@example.com.