Keegan Bradley is not a cheater. And neither is Carl Pettersson…or Webb Simpson…or Ernie Els…or anybody else who uses an anchored putter, whether it’s a long putter or a belly putter.
I feel compelled to rise to their defense because of comments that Keegan Bradley made in the media center at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
He began by saying that he wasn’t surprised that PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem came out against the ban on anchored putters and how much he appreciated the commissioner’s support:
Yeah, I wasn’t that surprised at all. Commissioner Finchem and the PGA Tour has always had their players’ backs, no matter how big or small the group is.
You know, I’m very proud and it makes me feel good that my Tour, the Tour I play on, has my back. I think now that this comment period that the USGA has been talking about, they have heard from two of the biggest organizations, golf organizations in the world, the PGA Tour and The PGA of America saying that they don’t agree with the USGA. If they are really taking this comment period seriously, I think they really need to look at what’s been said by both those organizations.
The PGA Tour is supporting its players and the PGA of America (the club pros) are supporting their amateur players who allegedly find the game easier and, of course, the shop sales that go along with that support.
For a good discussion of the most recent politics of the proposed ban on anchored putters, see Michael Bamberger’s Sports Illustrated piece, “PGA Tour to announce its opposition to anchored-putting ban on Sunday.”
In some way, Bradley is a little mystified about how we got from love and lightness abounding in the world to the looming darkness of eternal damnation:
When I won the PGA in 2011 with a belly putter, I was the first one to do it, and after I did my press conference and stuff, I didn’t get asked one question about it. Wasn’t a big deal at all.
So you know, it’s an interesting dynamic. I know the USGA is looking out to protect the game and do what’s best for the game, but I think they need to sit back and listen to what some of these big organizations are saying. It’s a comment period, so they say, so I hope they listen.
And this shift has presented quite a distraction to Bradley and quite a bit of acrimony too:
Yeah, it’s been actually pretty difficult. You know, especially lately; I’m being called a cheater more than ever by fans, by some writers — none of you guys.
You know, it’s really tough. I can’t imagine how people can say that to me or to anybody out here [where players routinely DQ themselves in the name of integrity]. It’s been really difficult, and I’m sick of it to be honest. I’m ready to be over it.
But you know, I realize that this is going to be an issue now for the next couple years, at least. I hope the USGA thought about us players before they did this, because it’s been really difficult on me and I know it’s been really difficult on some other players, too.
It is absolutely abhorrent that any of these men would be called cheaters. As I wrote in my post, “Anchored Putters,” last February:
This an issue that has been brewing since Jim Ferree first used a long putter in 1986. He said that it “saved my golfing life.” At the time there wasn’t any language in the Rules of Golf that would preclude their use. And there still isn’t.
This year-old post remains one of the most-read posts on my blog and even today was the most-read blog of the day. It goes in spurts and it’s hard to see what drives the interest, but most of it appears to be seeking a definition of what an anchored putter is. It seems to be all curiosity and I have never detected any malevolence in the queries.
You’ve had players like Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker say that they have been swayed by listening to people’s personal stories about the long putter. Have you shared with them what it’s like to be out on the course and be called a cheater? And other than the Tiger event, can you give us an example of like when a fan has called you a cheater and what your response, if any, has been?
I know Jim and Steve Stricker very well. I haven’t sought out those guys and told them my story by any means.
I think that if you’re in the game, if you’re at every Tour event, they are feeling what we are going through, and I really appreciate them saying that.
Some of the guys that have come out strongly against [the ban], I don’t understand, because it doesn’t affect them; it affects me. So I really appreciate those guys doing that. That shows a lot to me.
As for the other people, a lot of it’s on Twitter, which is ridiculous, anyways, I know. I do read it and I shouldn’t. And there’s silly fans that will say stuff. There’s the occasional article that comes out, there was one recently that came out that I was absolutely [a cheater], I couldn’t believe it. I think that for the most part people are super respectful, but it’s very easy to pick out those few — and the word cheater. I mean, it’s amazing that people can say that. It’s probably the worst thing you could ever say to an athlete [especially a golfer].
And just for the record, Bradley did not start out using the belly putter because he had the yips or to “cheat:”
My dad had a belly putter — my dad was a club pro, and he had a belly putter I remember in the shop. I used to grab it when I was in high school, and it always felt so good. I never switched to it, but I remember the first time grabbing it thinking, I’m probably going to putt with it some day, it feels so good. For no other reason, than it felt good; I had no affliction why I was using it.
And then when I turned pro 2008, I moved to Florida and I had a relationship with RIFE putters and I was able to get professionally fitted. I’m tall and skinny and weird, so I never could get a belly putter that fit me correctly. That was probably the only reason I didn’t — never used it.
And then once that happened, I was able to be fit professionally by Danny Day at RIFE, and that’s when I started using it. It just felt better.
Presumably it felt better because he didn’t have to control a putter as much that was already anchored to his body. Yes, he still had to make a stroking motion with his hands, but his hands were not hanging in space off the end of a standard putter as I believe was the original intent of the game.
Now it is fair to say that “the original intent of the game” wasn’t so much intent as it was an inability of the founders of today’s game to see 400 years into the future. “Outside of the box,” wasn’t even a concept then, so it would have been understandable that no one would have thought to constrain the length of a putter or how it was used…which is why in recent times, Sam Snead was banned from straddling the line when he putted.
So I don’t quite see why banning the long or belly putters is much different than that ruling. And for that reason, I still believe that they should be banned on whatever timetable would be fair to those like Keegan Bradley who currently use it.
But in the meantime, they are certainly not cheating because there clearly is no rule against their use. Those who cannot help but rage over their use should simply be gently and persistently reminded of that irrefutable fact…and perhaps be encouraged to tweet a contrite apology to Bradley.