As the PGA Tour makes it’s way to the Florida Swing, and the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens, the players are encountering fans that are getting their first shot at the players who are using long putters. During Tuesday’s practice rounds, 2011 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley became the focus of their attention, calling him a cheater. Bradley expressed in a press conference after his round that he was heckled throughout the course, he continues to play with the putter, and is continuing to use the anchored stroke because at the present time, it is within the rules.
The subject of the putting stroke became public back in November when the USGA, in conjunction with the R&A decided to take 90 days and make a ruling. When they make their ruling, if they ban the stroke, it would go into effect in 2016. Bradley said the heckling started immediately at the World Challenge. The PGA, and Commissioner Peter Finchem have issued a letter for further clarification of the rule, which means they are likely to oppose the change.
When the proposal was first made public, most or the old timers, and players who don’t use the belly putter came out publicly in favor of the ban, including Tiger Woods, and the likes of Steve Stricker. Both have said after thinking about the subject, they are softening their stance, and feel it probably would not be the best thing for golf, they were in favor of a decision that would be the best for the game.
The subject of long putters and anchored strokes has laid in the weed for almost forty years, and only started to surface when professionals using the stroke, started winning major tournaments. Keegan Bradley was the first at the 2011 PGA Championship, then Webb Simpson at the 2012 US Open. The conversation festered when Ernie Els won the 2012 British Open.
Fans almost immediately started to heckle both Bradley, and Simpson after the ruling body made their announcement, with boos, and louder than normal accusations of being a cheater. Fans have not heckled Ernie Els quite as much, in my opinion, because he is not a member of the young guns, and he was able to win a couple of majors with a standard putter.
Over the past 20 years, golf has become more of a participant sport where spectators have become more vocal, unlike the past where fan were basically seen and not heard. Now we have stadium golf with a loud boisterous fan base, that was quite frankly, what professional golf wanted in an effort to expand it’s focus, and revenue stream.
The fans really need to quit heckling these players. They have, and continue to play within the rules they are governed by. I don’t feel like we should be on their case, or start putting asterisk in the record books just yet. This isn’t steroids in baseball, and shouldn’t be viewed as cheating, after all, they won with the rules in place at the time.
Come on…Let’s give them a break !!
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