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PGA Tour takes stand against 'belly putter' ban

February 25, 2013|By Houston Mitchell
  • Adam Scott is one of the golfers who use a belly putter on the PGA Tour.
Adam Scott is one of the golfers who use a belly putter on the PGA Tour. (Stuart Franklin / Getty…)

The U.S. Golf Assn. announced on Nov. 28 that it would consider prohibiting players from using "belly putters," which are putters that are pressed against the chest or stomach to help keep the club stable. There was a lot of teeth-gnashing on the PGA Tour, because three of the last five major champions used belly putters.

When it made its announcement, the USGA said it would allow 90 days for comments before putting the ban into effect for the 2016 season.

On Sunday, the PGA Tour made a big comment: Commissioner Tim Finchem said the tour opposed the ban because there was not enough evidence to suggest that players had an advantage by using a long putter.

"We hold the USGA in highest regard as a key part of the game of golf," Finchem said. "We don't attempt to denigrate that position in any way whatsoever. It's just on this issue, we think if they were to move forward, they would be making a mistake."

Finchem has been meeting with his players the last few months, with USGA Executive Director Mike Davis presenting the proposed rule to a player meeting in San Diego last week. Finchem sent a letter to the USGA and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club on Friday to state the tour's position.

"I think the essential thread that went through the thinking of the players ... was that in the absence of data or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring, and given the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, that there is no overriding reason to go down that road," Finchem said.

So now, the USGA has a choice to make: Go ahead with the ban or risk angering the PGA Tour, which most fans follow and is in effect the face of golf in the U.S. What will the PGA Tour do if the ban is instituted?

"I haven't spent much time worrying about that," Finchem said. "That would be speculation, and I haven't really thought about it. I've thought more about some areas of bifurcation, whether it would work or not. But I think that the focus here ought to be, if possible, to go down the same road, everybody go down the same road on anchoring, and that's certainly where we are right now.

"We just hope they take our view on it," he said. "We'll see."

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