Anchored putting stroke banned by USGA and R&A

Padraig Harrington, of Ireland, putts with a belly Padraig Harrington, of Ireland, putts with a belly putter on the 16th hole during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C. (May 3, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Golf's two governing bodies outlawed the anchored putting stroke used by four of the last six major champions, approving a new rule that starts in 2016 and urging the PGA Tour to follow along so the 600-year-old sport is still played under one set of rules.

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association adopted Rule 14-1b, which prohibits players from anchoring a club against their bodies.

"We strongly believe that this rule is for the betterment of the game," USGA president Glen Nager said. "Rule 14-1b protects one of the important challenges in the game -- the free swing of the entire club."

The decision ends six months of sometimes rancorous debate. The rule was opposed by the PGA Tour and the PGA of America, which contended the stroke commonly used for long putters was not hurting the game and there was no statistical proof that it was an advantage.

The next step -- and perhaps the most important step -- is for the PGA Tour to follow the new rule or decide to establish its own condition of competition that would allow players to anchor the long putters. Most believe that would lead to chaos in golf. If a special condition were allowed for the PGA Tour, it would mean players could not use the anchored stroke at the U.S. Open and British Open. Augusta National is likely to follow the new rule at the Masters.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in February the USGA and R&A would be "making a mistake" to adopt the rule, though he has stressed that it was critical for golf to play under one set of rules.

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The tour said in a statement it would consult with its Player Advisory Council and policy board to determine "whether various provisions of Rule 14-1b will be implemented in our competitions, and if so, examine the process for implementation." It declined further comment until then.

The new rule does not ban the long putters, only the way they commonly are used. Golfers no longer will be able to anchor the club against their bodies to create the effect of a hinge. Some forms of anchoring have been around at least 40 years.

Sergio apologizes

Sergio Garcia apologized for saying he would "serve fried chicken" while making a joke about having Tiger Woods over for dinner.

The British newspaper The Guardian reported Garcia was asked in jest while on stage at the European Tour's awards dinner last night in Virginia Water, England, if he would invite Woods to dinner during the U.S. Open.

The Guardian reported Garcia said: "We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken."

The newspaper said Garcia released a statement: "I apologise for any offence that may have been caused by my comment on stage . . . I answered a question that was clearly made toward me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner."

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