Sunday, July 22, 2012



Overcoming a triple bogey on the par-four sixth hole, Tiger Woods came roaring back to win the 141st British Open at the Royal Lytham & St. Annes golf course.

With his rivals for the Claret Jug wilting under the pressure of this granddaddy of major championships, Tiger stared down a ten-foot putt on the seventy-second hole, willing the ball in the side of the cup. He then waited to see if Brandt Snedeker, his last challenger on a brutal day of links golf, could hole out from six feet to join him in a playoff. When the putt slid off the cup to the right, Woods claimed his fifteenth major golf championship, leaving the record eighteen majors by Jack Nicklaus dead in his sights.

Those who watched this year’s Open know that didn’t happen but it could have. If the Royal and Ancient Golf Club had done its duty but outlawing the anchored putter, this championship might well have come down to Snedeker and Woods. Instead, we watched the belly putter beat the long putter to claim its first British Open.

Before last year at the PGA golf had gone 140 years without crowning any golfer who used a putter that many consider an unfair advantage. The anchored putter has now won three of the last four major golf championships.

Ironically, in 2004 this year's golfer of the year (Open Champion) Ernie Els called for the both the belly and the long putter to be banned. In 2011 he switched to the belly putter and saw his scoring average drop by a full stroke over a single round.

In October of last year he was quoted as saying: “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”

He has a point. What are the odds that Keegan Bradley or Webb Simpson could have won a major championship without the anchored putter? What are the odds that Els’ chief rival for this year’s Open could have done so without his long putter? What are the odds that Barry Bonds could have hit 73 home runs in one season without some form of chemical assistance? The answer is nil or very close to that level of probability. The difference is: Bonds was a great player who probably sacrificed three or four years of his career to become Babe Ruth for three seasons. He paid a price and is probably still paying a price in terms of his health and prospects for a long life. These championship golfers face no similar sacrifice.

Adam Scott, always an excellent ball striker, had lost his putting stroke when he switched to the long putter, which he anchors to his chest, before last year’s Masters. His tour rank for putting went from 143rd to 76th, an improvement that enables him to compete for major championships.

Ernie Els won the Open with a regulation putter in 2002. He is a gentleman and a great golfer but he knows in his heart he stole this one from more deserving competitors. This one deserves an asterisk.

The time has come to outlaw the anchored putter for the good of the game.


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