Picture the scene. It’s Sunday April 14, 2013, and Keegan Bradley is walking down the 18th with a two-shot lead at Augusta National, waving aloft his belly putter to the patrons, shortly before slipping on a Green Jacket and praising his new Srixon ball in the Butler Cabin.
How would his second major championship victory at the age of 26 be perceived?
Of course, there’d be deserved congratulations. I’d be the first to pat him on the back. You can’t just belly-putt your way around 7,000-plus yards. But I also fear many would rather attribute his win with an asterix next to his surname - particularly after a fan’s comment during yesterday’s first round of the World Challenge.
“I’ve been catching such flak on Twitter and these other places,” confided Bradley, who currently sits in a tie for second at the Tiger Woods-hosted tournament.
“I had a guy yesterday telling me to send my application in to Burger King for 2016.”
The new Rule 14-1b defines such strokes as improper, a determination that casts a shadow over every stroke made that way - regardless if it’s technically still legal or not. If the stroke is deemed to be ‘improper’ ahead of 2016, it will certainly feel ‘improper’ to a player who gets beat by a guy who wins with an anchored putter.
Sure, this week’s proposed anchored ban on putters cannot be implemented until Big Ben chimes on January 1 2016 as the Rules of Golf is published every four years, but surely the R&A and USGA can commence proceedings earlier? It’s already ten years overdue as it is.
The 2013 Masters will mark one of 12 majors before golf’s governing bodies wipe the slate clean, so there’s a good chance several players will win more major titles, on top of competing in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles wielding abhorrent-looking putters. Then again, they may wish to prepare for the new ruling with standard-length putters. Only time will tell.
The rule will next be approved in the spring of 2013 by both R&A and USGA. In the meantime, for the next three months or so, the ruling bodies have pledged to listen to questions and comments while entertaining opposing points of view.
It’s possible the language of the rule could be amended before the final vote by both bodies, although the substance of Rule 14-1b will likely remain in place without alteration.
According to the USGA’s executive director Mike Davis, the rule could be enacted before January 1, 2016 - but only if there’s enough support by stakeholders in the game to make the change.
He said: “It’s an example of give us comments and feedback [during this unprecedented 90-day window before the rule is finalised]. It would be unusual to make that change then, but if the R&A and USGA feel it’s in the best interest to deviate from that, we’d certainly talk about it.”
PGA Tour player Steve Flesch has already given them his tuppenceworth, judging by his latest rant on Twitter.
“Enough with the 90 days and actual rule change in three years. USGA just needs to implement the rule and move on. What the hell was the rush to announce the anchoring ban when it doesn’t matter for three years? Show some guts and make it effective one year from now.”
Well written, Steve. Now let’s hope others join the queue.