Masters mum on putting debate

2013-04-10 20:28
Belly putter (File)
Augusta - Masters chief Billy Payne has refused to be drawn on the contentious issue of anchoring putters, saying that it was a matter solely for golf's ruling bodies to settle.

The anchoring debate has been simmering since joint ruling bodies The Royal & Ancient Club (R&A) and the US Golf Association (USGA) proposed banning such strokes, which involve fixing the handle of the putter to a point on the body - usually the stomach or chest - from January 1, 2016.

This followed major tournament wins for Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA Championship and Webb Simpson and Ernie Els at the following year's US and British Opens. All three used an anchored putting stroke.

Subsequently the US PGA Tour and the PGA of America have come out firmly against such a ban, raising the spectre of double
standards in the rules of the sport, possibly at the amateur and professional levels.

Asked on Wednesday where the Masters stood on anchored putting, chairperson Payne, who is also head of Augusta National Golf Club, declined to take sides.

"We are not a governing body. We are a golf club that puts on a tournament, so we would be presumptuous to say that we have that kind of influence," he said.

"Given the fact that the ruling bodies have not yet declared a decision following that open comment period, I do think it would be inappropriate for us to express an opinion - other than to say that we hope and believe that they can reach common ground so that golf will continue under one set of rules."

With the R&A still digesting the many comments it received during the 90-day period set aside for submissions on the proposed ban, players have been left in limbo over what they should do next.

Bradley, who tees off on Thursday in his second Masters, said that he would have been interested in what Augusta National had to say on the matter.

"But I'm going to try to play golf and not worry about it. I'm sure whatever side they favour they have their reasons why, and I respect that," he said.

The veteran Els underlined his concern by opting to play with a regular putter at a tournament in Thailand last month, while saying he would revert to his belly putter for Augusta National because of the fast speed of the greens.

Australian Adam Scott, who two years ago nearly became the first player to win the Masters while using a long-handled putter, and who will start among the favourites again this year, has been vocal in his opposition to the proposed ban.

"I have some concern over that, because I believe they are making a mistake and that's been well documented, I guess," he said.

"But they are going to do what they are going to do and we'll see how the other powers that be respond."

If unwilling to be drawn on the rules for putting, Payne did announce certain changes to the Masters Tournament setup, notably on how players can gain the much coveted invitation to compete in the year's first major.

As of next year only the top 12 finishers from the previous year, and not the top 16 as of present, will be invited back. Similarly only the top four and not the top eight from the US Open will earn invitations - bringing that into line with the British Open
and PGA Championship.

Also removed from qualifying will be the 30 top money winners from the final US PGA Tour money list.

These moves will help compensate for an increase in the number of players being invited for winning USPGA Tour events.

Finally, and starting from this year, the cut after the first two rounds will be increased to 50 players and ties, plus those within 10 strokes of the lead. Previously it had been the top 44 and ties, plus the 10-stroke rule.

Read more on:    masters  |  pga tour  |  golf

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