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Tiger offers long-putter solution


Tiger Woods has a solution to long putters - make them no longer than the shortest club in the bag.

Woods said he has "never been a fan" of long putters that players either anchor into their belly or the broom-style putters that are pressed against the chest.

"I believe it's the art of controlling the body and club and swinging the pendulum motion," Woods said. "I believe that's how it should be played. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to that."

Woods said he has spoken to Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson the last several years about how the language could be written in the Rules of Golf that effectively would ban such putters.

"My idea was to have it so that the putter would be equal to or less than the shortest club in your bag," Woods said. "And I think with that, we'd be able to get away from any type of belly anchoring."

He said the putter still could be anchored to the forearm, as two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer once did.

Keegan Bradley became the first major champion to use a belly putter when he won the PGA Championship. Bill Haas used the same style when he won the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup.

The belly putters gained momentum late last year with Bradley and Webb Simpson, who won twice late in the year and who nearly captured the PGA Tour money title. Both considered themselves good putters who felt as though anchoring the club to their stomach made them even better.

For years, most players believed only players who were desperate to improve used such putters.

Ernie Els once criticised the use of belly putters, but switched to one late last year and said: "As long as it's legal, I'll keep cheating like the rest of them."

Phil Mickelson also experimented with a belly putter during the FedEx Cup playoffs last year. He since has gone back to a more conventional putter.

The R&A and USGA, while making no formal announcement, have said they would review such putters. While it would seem simple to ban long putters, it can help recreational players stay interested in the game, and any ban might also affect the equipment companies.

"If you look back at the interest in it, it really never changed for over 20 years," USGA executive director Mike Davis said Saturday at its annual meeting. "Then all of a sudden in 2011 ... this has become a much bigger topic. So the R&A and USGA have been talking about this at length, and we're looking at it from the perspective as ... what is good for the game for all golfers long term."

Davis said it would be premature to speculate on a direction the governing bodies are going, except to say they are not ignoring the issue.

"It is something that we have taken a fresh look at, because there are more players in the game, both on the elite level and on the recreational level, using it," Davis said. "I think we just want to be sure that we're looking at all the angles and thinking about what is in the best interest, both the traditions of the game, the history of the game and what is what we think would be good for the game long term."

By Doug Ferguson, AFP


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