Anchored putters to be outlawed
Any threat of legal action will not stop golf's governing bodies introducing a ban on anchored putters in 2016.
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That was the message from Mike Davis, executive director of the United States Golf Association on Wednesday.
"We understand there are going to be players unhappy about this," he said.
"We need to do what we think is right and shame on us if we are scared of litigation in doing the right thing."
A proposed rule change has been announced by the USGA and Royal and Ancient Club, but the final decision will not be taken until next spring so that the two organisations can "consider any further comments and suggestions from throughout the golf community".
From 2016 three of golf's last five major champions - Ernie Els, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson - would not be able to continue putting as they do under the proposal.
They could still put their current putters in the bag, but anchoring them to the belly, chest or chin would be outlawed - with a two-shot penalty in strokeplay or loss of hole in matchplay.
Australian Adam Scott, whose career was reignited by a switch to a long putter, is among those who have questioned the need for change, while earlier this month Phil Mickelson said: "I don't think you can take away what you've allowed players to use, practise and play with for 30 years - I think it is grossly unfair."
But Tiger Woods said: "I just believe that the art of putting is swinging the club and controlling nerves.
"Having it as a fixed point is something that's not in the traditions of the game.
"We swing all other 13 clubs - I think the putter should be the same. It should be a swinging motion throughout the entire bag."
Peter Dawson, R&A chief executive, said: "We do take legal advice whenever we are doing something like this, but more to ensure our process is robust rather than for any defensive reason.
"We believe the governing bodies have the authority and we would defend it right up the legal system. Once we are ready to do something we are ready to defend it all the way.
"We do think we have thought this through from every angle, but there may be something we have not thought about and we are genuinely open to what people may say.
"But people should realise that most of the matters discussed (since it was revealed earlier this year that the two bodies were reviewing the situation) have been taken into account in our thinking."
Davis said that on the PGA Tour in America the number of players using long putters has gone up from six per cent in 2006-2010 to 11 per cent last year and to 15 per cent this season - "and at some event 20-25 per cent".
The ruling bodies said in a statement: "The proposed Rule 14-1b, which follows an extensive review by the R&A and the USGA, would prohibit strokes made with the club or a hand gripping the club held directly against the player's body, or with a forearm held against the body to establish an anchor point that indirectly anchors the club.
"The proposed new rule would not alter current equipment rules and would allow the continued use of all conforming golf clubs, including belly-length and long putters, provided such clubs are not anchored during a stroke.
"The proposed rule narrowly targets only a few types of strokes, while preserving a golfer's ability to play a wide variety of strokes in his or her individual style.
"In proposing the new rule, the R&A and the USGA concluded that the long-term interests of the game would be served by confirming a stroke as the swinging of the entire club at the ball.
"This proposal reflects the R&A's and USGA's responsibility to define how the game is to be played.
"Aspects of how a player must make a stroke have been addressed in past rules changes, such as the century-old rule codifying that the ball must be fairly struck and not be pushed, scraped or spooned and the 1968 prohibition on the 'croquet' style of putting."
Dawson added: "Anchored strokes have become the preferred option for a growing number of players and this has caused us to review these strokes and their impact on the game.
"Our concern is that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional putting strokes which are integral to the long-standing character of the sport."
Davis also said: "Throughout the 600-year history of golf, the essence of playing the game has been to grip the club with the hands and swing it freely at the ball.
"The player's challenge is to control the movement of the entire club in striking the ball and anchoring the club alters the nature of that challenge.
"Our conclusion is that the Rules of Golf should be amended to preserve the traditional character of the golf swing by eliminating the growing practice of anchoring the club."
Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America, has urged the R&A and USGA to think very carefully before implementing the proposed rule change.
"The PGA has long supported the USGA in its role of establishing the Rules of Golf governing play and equipment.," he said in a statement.
"We have representation on the Rules of Golf Committee and we have tremendous respect for the USGA in regard to their critical role in writing and interpreting the Rules of Golf.
"As our mission is to grow the game, on behalf of our 27,000 men and women PGA professionals, we are asking them to seriously consider the impact this proposed ban may have on people's enjoyment of the game and the overall growth of the game."
South African Gary Player said on his Twitter site: "The R&A and USGA have made the right call on not allowing anchoring whilst still leaving all players to use long putters".
But he also said he agreed with Jack Nicklaus that it was not the only issue facing golf.
"The ball is the major problem and needs to be tackled as more and more courses become obsolete," Player said.
"It's time for bifurcation like most other sports. If you think the game is the same for all, just watch Tiger or Rory versus your club champ."