x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Fear of heckling fans could deter golfers from anchoring

Forget the rules that will be implemented by 2016 banning the practice, followers of the game do not like it and they show it, too.

Keegan Bradley has been a target for fans. Jim Watson / AFP
Keegan Bradley has been a target for fans. Jim Watson / AFP

Ah, the stigma of the long stick. When Tim Finchem, the commissioner, said the US PGA Tour was lobbying against a proposal that would ban the anchoring of belly putters and broom models to a player's body, the blow back was fast and furious.

Yet his players have been hearing catcalls for weeks.

The sport's governing bodies, the US Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient, announced their intention to ban the act of anchoring three months ago, at which point some fans began hurling insults when purveyors of the long putters were within earshot.

The US Ryder Cup player Keegan Bradley, the first of three belly putter users to win a major when he claimed the 2011 PGA Championship, has been a frequent target as a cheater. Mind you, the ban, even if implemented, would not take effect until 2016.

"You know, it's really tough," Bradley said this week. "I can't imagine how people can say that to me or to anybody out here. It's been really difficult, and I'm sick of it to be honest. I'm ready to be over it."

Nobody can say when the divisive issue will be settled. But if the USGA/R&A enact the rule as written, and the US tour elects to ignore or modify it, the heckling will get only worse because, for the first time, a tour would be in violation of a codified rule of golf.

Some believe that those anchoring putters to their bodies have a competitive advantage. If the scenario plays out a certain way, given the nature of the fans, it could fast become a handicap.

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