Babineau: Confusing game gets more complicated

Angel Cabrera celebrates after winning the 2009 Masters.

Angel Cabrera celebrates after winning the 2009 Masters.

Reader poll

Should anchoring your club be banned?

  • Yes, I would favor a ban on anchoring a golf club 51%
  • No, I would not favor a ban on anchoring a golf club 45%
  • Doesn't matter, I will use an anchored club anyway 3%

2586 total votes.

Use a long putter? Experimented for a few months 11 years ago.

• • •

If we all could jump into Marty McFly’s time travel machine and go back, oh, 20 years, when anchoring was starting to gain momentum, then I’d be more receptive to the joint decision announced by the R&A and USGA to take anchoring out of the game. But the timing of this move disturbs me more than the decision itself. Apologies to the Better Late Than Never crowd, but this decision is too late and will adversely affect careers. I’ve yet to hear a compelling stance as the organizing bodies address this fundamental question: Where’s the fire, folks?

Should nerves be part of this game? Sure, but mostly for that one-half of 1 percent who compete professionally. The rest of us 8-handicappers have enough demons to conquer and can use a little help when standing over a 6-footer in a $5 Sunday Nassau.

Apparently, watching Ernie Els hole a crucial 18-foot putt with his belly putter at Royal Lytham to win the 141st Open Championship, where he caught broomstick-wielding Adam Scott, was the final unbearable act in the eyes of the venerable R&A. Ahem, this just didn’t appear right, wasn’t in the right spirit and need be banished – immediately! Old Course, you’re next! And hey, let’s all return to playing in tweed jackets using Haskell balls and hickory!

I sat on a putting green at Bay Hill 20-plus years ago with Rocco Mediate the morning after he had become the first PGA Tour player to win using a long putter (Doral, 1991), and I was on the side of the 18th green at Atlanta Athletic Club a full two decades later when Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA) became the first pro to capture a major with a belly putter. (Bradley was the first to win a major with one anchored into his belly, at least; Angel Cabrera won the 2009 Masters with a 39-inch model that he did not anchor.)

In between those scenes, I have run into countless amateurs whose enjoyment of the game is enhanced because a long putter helps them turn 35 putts a round into 32. They’re shooting 82, or 92, not 62. Some have bad backs. Some have cured yips. One Wall Street Journal reader stated he employs a long putter because he has Parkinson’s. (Quick aside: Regarding the argument that this is a “rules” issue and not an “equipment” issue, and that only anchoring, not long putters, will be banned, please, don’t get me started. In 2016, who will carry a broomstick putter if he/she cannot anchor it? Somebody looking to gain a few extra inches on penalty drops?)

Will I have to call a two-stroke infraction on a fellow competitor in the member-guest whom I suspect is anchoring? Do the players who won majors with long putters, though perfectly within the rules, now boast accomplishments that are somewhat tarnished? Will a player who continues to anchor right up until the ban becomes official on Jan. 1, 2016, be viewed by fans as a “cheater,” or as doing something untoward?

These all are questions we’ll be forced to answer after yet another muddled mess of making a very confusing game all the more complicated. Our sport yearns for more participation, and governing bodies acknowledge this game needs to be more fun. So why implement something that will chase golfers away?

• • •

Editor's note: Check out all of our in-depth stories on the anchoring issue here.

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