The anchored stroke may soon set sail on the way out of the game of golf.
The R&A said Monday it is discussing with the U.S. Golf Association the future of belly and long putters, potentially announcing a decision on their future in the sport as soon as this year.
“This decision has not been taken, but I think we are going to say something in a few months rather than years,” said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A.
Dawson reaffirmed the bodies are looking at the legality of an anchored stroke rather than the length of belly and long putters. For any ban to be implemented, the concept of “anchoring” would need to be clearly defined, which Dawson believes is quite clear.
“Anchoring is what we’re looking at, method of stroke, and it’s all about putting around a fixed pivot point, whether that fixed pivot point is in your belly or under your chin or on your chest,” he said. “I don’t distinguish.”
With this year being the last in the four-year joint rules cycle, any change to the legality of longer putters or an anchored stroke would not take effect before January 1, 2016.
Ernie Els won the British Open on Sunday using a belly putter, becoming the third major champion in the last four played to use such a putter.
Had Adam Scott won the Claret Jug, he would have been the first to use the long putter to win a major. His stoke, however, was not perfect down the stretch, as evidenced by a 3-foot miss at No. 16.
The R&A said, however, it is the pervasiveness of the putters in the game that dictates the review of their legality, not a trend among major winners. Dawson said data shows 14-15 percent of the field uses a longer putter. At the Open Championship, that number was 27.5 percent.
If a ban is instituted, Dawson said the wins of Els, PGA champion Keegan Bradley and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson would not be invalidated – officially or unofficially.
“It doesn’t detract in any way from the winner as long as he obeys the rules of play at the time,” Dawson said. “Bobby Jones used concave-faced clubs for some of his major championships and hey were outlawed later.”
Last October at the Frys.com Open, Els said he would continue to “cheat like the rest of them,” using the belly putter despite his personal objections to its legality.
While an announcement is anticipated in the next few months, USGA executive director Mike Davis remains focused on a decision that is best for the entire sport.
“Together with The R&A, we remain deliberate in our review,” Davis said in an email last week, “and are keen on getting any decision right for the long-term, for the game and for all golfers, rather than rush to judgment.”