It's just been over a week since golfers like Keegan Bradley were punched in the gut by the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club.
The two governing bodies issued a proposal banning the "anchoring" of a club to the body during a stroke; Bradley is among those using a method where the butt end of the putter's shaft is stuck in the stomach (or gut) during the stroke. The rule will not ban long putters and only the technique. If passed, the ban will take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
In the time since the Nov. 28 announcement, Bradley has been heckled by fans, called a cheater, ridiculed by others on Twitter — one told him to get his Burger King application ready — and, strangely enough, defended by the USGA after the heckling incident.
"It's a weird time for players like myself and Brendan (Steele) to have to deal with that," said Bradley, who won the 2011 PGA Championship, becoming the first of three belly-putter users to win majors. "I think we've all kind of handled it pretty well, considering it's been a pretty drastic change."
Carl Pettersson and Vijay Singh also are playing in the Shootout this week, and use an anchoring style, although not the same manner as Bradley or Steele.
Pettersson, who has used the method for 16 years, said Thursday he's been advised by his manager not to talk about the proposal. Webb Simpson at the U.S. Open, and Ernie Els at the British Open followed Bradley this year as belly-putter major winners.
"I'd never heard the word 'anchoring' until guys started winning majors," Bradley said Tuesday as he talked to a group of junior golfers and parents. "Before that it was the belly putter, or a long putter. I don't know where this word 'anchoring' came from, but it's definitely become a negative word."
Bradley, 26, has stated several times he respects what the USGA is trying to do, but at the same time he doesn't agree with it. Steele feels the same way.
PROPOSED RULE CHANGE
The proposed change would re-label current Rule 14-1 as Rule 14-1a, and establish Rule 14-1b as described below:
14-1b Anchoring the Club
In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.”
Note 1: The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.
Note 2: An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.
Since the anchoring ban announcement, the issue has become even more divisive than it already was, and may only get worse. Players such as Tiger Woods and Tom Watson previously had said that an anchored stroke isn't a true golf stroke. Even Els said a year ago when he went to the belly putter method — "As long as it's legal, I'll keep cheating like the rest of them."
Shootout tournament founder and host Greg Norman agrees with the proposed ban, and said he's voiced his opinion on it for 25 or 30 years.
"I always thought the ability to go to an anchored stroke was a cop-out," Norman said. "It made it easy for you not to push through and make yourself work on something so hard to try and change."
Brandt Snedeker, who won the FedEx Cup and Tour Championship this year, agrees with the proposal.
"I think the USGA and R&A are very smart at what they're doing," Snedeker said. "I think the players need to get behind 100 percent whatever they do, and kind of move past this."
The PGA Tour will have its annual players meeting on Jan. 22 in San Diego. The issue will be more than discussed. Steele noted a Twitter war of words is only the beginning of a heated debate between tour players.
"That's going to get ugly," Steele said. "It's going to get really ugly. the other side of this coin too is people don't understand that there's going to be a lot of turmoil within the tour. Guys with belly putters are kind of taking names of the guys that are kind of having a celebration that use short putters, and are kind of stepping in that's really nothing to do with them.
"There's going to be some words with a lot of guys just about, hey, it doesn't affect you, so why are you telling everybody that things are going to be fair now, or telling everybody that now justice is served, and everything's been wrong before."
Some players don't want to get caught in the fray, for one reason or another.
"It doesn't affect me," Rickie Fowler said. "Whatever way it goes, it's not going to affect what I do. I can't really say I'm for it or against it."
Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter also noted the ban would not affect them, although Poulter said he agreed with the proposal.
Some players aren't in favor of the length of time before the proposal goes into place, although both the USGA and R&A stated in their announcement that the timing of the change would be in line with the next cycle of the Rules of Golf.
Steele, a 29-year-old who has used the method for six years, wonders what will happen during those three years.
"It's a very curious timing for me with the USGA as far as they're hanging us out to dry for guys now, because they're letting us use it until 2016," he said. "We're just going to get crushed by everybody until then, so
what do you do? They're basically forcing you to change with public opinion. rather than just kind of letting us go about our way until they go 'OK, now next year you need to change. Or doing it kind of quietly and saying, here's the deal, it's going to be this, just so you guys know."
Fowler wasn't sure how the players using that method should deal with that length of time either. Or how the record books would."I wouldn't want to see, if it were banned, and then not until '16 — then guys win from now until '16, and almost like people may put an asterisk by it — well, they won, but they were using this and now it's banned, so ...," he said.
Snedeker said he thinks the timetable to institute the ban will be moved up.
"I don't think it's wise to have three years of people calling Keegan a cheater and Webb a cheater or whoever's doing it, even though they're not cheating," he said. "I just don't think it's good for the Tour or for those guys. I don't think it's fair for those guys."
Belly putter anchoring isn't as prominent on the LPGA Tour. Lizette Salas, who was a rookie this year on the tour, is one of just a handful that use it.
Without major winners on that tour using an anchoring method, it's not been as hot a topic. Of course, Salas was waiting to see what the proposal was going to be while she played in the CME Group Titleholders at TwinEagles in Naples three weeks ago.
"I've heard that they want to eliminate the belly putter and all of that," said Salas, who switched to it right before the second stage of LPGA Tour Qualifying School a year ago. "If they do, I can be just as effective with the short putter.
"It's just something that I'm really comfortable with, and something that gives me that extra momentum, that extra boost of confidence."
Bradley has said he will keep using the anchored method at least for the time being. Steele, who won last year's Franklin Templeton Shootout with Bradley, isn't sure yet what he will do.
Bradley said the proposal has been a motivation to keep using it and keep winning with it. Steele sees it as motivation, too, except more when and if he has to switch to a short putter.
"I'm kind of fired up about it in the sense that I really want to prove them wrong, and improve my stats, and be a better player, and win tournaments, win more tournaments, and just kind of use it as fuel to the fire kind of thing," he said. "My stats aren't very good, if you look at my putting stats, anyway. So maybe they're doing me a favor."