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May 21, 2013

Golf bans anchored putting stroke

Golf's governing bodies approved a rule Tuesday that outlaws the putting stroke used by four of the last six major champions, a move opposed by two major golf organizations that contend long putters are not hurting the game.

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and U.S. Golf Association said Rule 14-1b will take effect in 2016.

"We recognize this has been a divisive issue, but after thorough consideration, we remain convinced that this is the right decision for golf," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said.

The new rule does not ban the long putters, only the way they commonly are used. Golfers no longer will be able to anchor the club against their bodies to create the effect of a hinge. Masters champion Adam Scott used a long putter he pressed against his chest. British Open champion Ernie Els and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson used a belly putter, as did Keegan Bradley in the 2011 PGA Championship.

"We strongly believe that this rule is for the betterment of the game," USGA President Glen Nager said. "Rule 14-1b protects one of the important challenges in the game — the free swing of the entire club."

The announcement followed six months of contentious debate, and it might not be over.

The next step is for the PGA Tour to follow the new rule or decide to establish its own condition of competition that would allow players to anchor the long putters. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in February the USGA and R&A would be "making a mistake" to adopt the rule, though he also has stressed the importance of golf playing under one set of rules.

"I think it's really important that the PGA Tour — and all the professional tours — continue to follow one set of rules," USGA executive director Mike Davis said. "We have gotten very positive feedback from the tours around the world saying that they like one set of rules, they like the R&A and USGA governing those. So if there was some type of schism, we don't think that would be good for golf.

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