Golf

Langer slams belly putter ban

2012-11-29 22:22
Bernhard Langer (AFP)
Sun City - German golfing legend Bernhard Langer has criticised the decision to ban golfers from anchoring long putters.

The Royal & Ancient (R&A) and the United States Golf Association (USGA) on Wednesday announced that "anchored" putting, whereby the club is pivoted by a player's belly or chest, is set to be outlawed from 2016.

The proposed rule would prohibit strokes made in such a way but would not alter existing equipment regulations which allow for the use of so-called 'belly' or 'long-handled' putters.

Last year Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major with a putter anchored on his midriff at the PGA Championship. He was swiftly followed by Webb Simpson at this year's US Open, and Ernie Els at the British Open.

And Langer, who himself uses a long putter, feels the new decision is absurd.

"It has been out for that long," said Langer, who thinks the long-handle putters have been around for about 35 years. "If there is anything illegal about it, why did they not stop it right away? If it is that easy with a long putter, a belly putter, why aren't 90 percent of the pros and 100 percent of the amateurs using it?" he told the Associated Press.

Langer suggested there would be a challenge to the rule proposal, hinting at a legal response from users.

"I do not think it is the end of it," he said. "There are pros that are on tour that grew up with that putter. They have invested 15-20 years in practicing, maybe 30 years practicing with a long putter or belly putter, and now they have to switch and they make a living doing that."

The 55-year-old Langer boasts 86 wins in his professional career, including two majors (1985 and 1993 US Masters).

Research shows a small but gradual increase in the number of players using the long handles, leaving golf's governing bodies worried that players will turn to long putters as an advantage instead of a last resort. That raised fears from authorities about the purity of the sport.

"Our objective is to preserve the skill and challenge," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson told AP. "This rule is not performance-related. This is about defining what is a stroke."

Meanwhile, American Bill Haas, co-leader in the Nedbank Challenge, insists the anchored style didn't make putting easier and there was no need to change anything.

"I thought I putted worse with it (the belly putter) for a while," the American said. "I think it's just a way to putt. I've heard Webb Simpson talk about it and he says stats show the best putters aren't belly putters users."

Haas tried a long-handle belly putter in 2011 and said he had "some success" with it, but then reverted to a regular club this year.

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