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Guan Tianlang © Gallo Images

Chinese prodigy shrugs off long putter ban

Fourteen-year-old Chinese phenomenon Guan Tianlang on Tuesday shrugged off an impending ban on long putters and insisted he can manage with a traditional short club.

Guan made world headlines in November when he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship by a stroke – using a belly putter – to become the youngest player ever to qualify for the US Masters.

But Guan was unconcerned by last week's announcement that long or anchored putters, which can be steadied against the stomach or chest, would be outlawed in 2016, and said he practises regularly with a normal club.

"I don't think it will be a big problem for me because I do pretty well with a short putter too," he said at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney ahead of this week's Emirates Australian Open, according to a press release from the event's organisers.

"Also, it only happens in four years, so there is plenty of time still."

Guan's victory underlined an increasing prevalence of long putters including Major wins by Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els using the new-style equipment, all in the past year.

The trend forced golf's rules-makers to act, but set off a wave of concern from players who have based their careers on long putters.

Guan said he was comfortable with a short putter – although he was not ready to make the switch just yet, with the Masters looming in April.

"I practice with the short putter every week. Not much, but just a bit," he said. "I'm ready and I have the technique, but I am not going to change right now."

Tom Watson, the eight-time Major winner who is also playing in Sydney, welcomed the long putter ban but admitted he had "mixed emotions".

"My son Michael, with a conventional putting stroke, could not make it from two feet half the time. He went to a belly putter and he makes everything. The game is fun to him again," said Watson.


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