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Say goodbye to anchored putting

Following a lengthy struggle over its legality and a brief time spent on life support, the anchored putting stroke reached its ultimate demise when the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2016.

It is survived by its fraternal twin, the long putter (which may no longer be pressed into a golfer's midsection), and many close relatives, including the arm-lock method of putting, popularized by PGA Tour veteran Matt Kuchar.

Initially proposed jointly by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and U.S. Golf Association more than three years ago, anchoring banishment was approved within months and written into the Rules of Golf for the upcoming year and beyond. Rule 14-1b states: "In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either 'directly' or by use of an 'anchor point.'"

This is the final chapter of a putting stroke that lived a complicated, controversial life.

Panned by critics as a cure-all for golfers with the yips and other issues with traditional putting, it served as the perfect elixir for countless amateurs around the world and -- more notably -- dozens of top-level professionals. Anchoring was used as the predominant putting style for the winners of many tournaments, including three major champions -- Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA Championship), Webb Simpson (2012 U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (2012 Open Championship).

It didn't all happen so quickly, though. The origin of anchored putting was more evolution than big bang theory.

A man named Richard Parmley first applied for a "belly putter" patent in 1961; it was approved four years later. In 1966, Phil Rodgers won twice on the PGA Tour employing an anchored stroke suggested to him by World Golf Hall of Fame member Paul Runyan. According to an Associated Press article at the time, "Rodgers shoves the handle of his putter against his stomach and spreads his hands apart before taking his stroke."

The anchored stroke remained in an infancy stage for close to two decades, though, until popularity began to spread. In 1983, Charlie Owens anchored the end of his putter to his sternum while winning a pair of Champions Tour titles. Eight years later, Rocco Mediate became the first winner on the PGA Tour to employ this style, claiming the Doral-Ryder Open title.

Even if the floodgates never officially opened, anchoring became more fashionable in following years. When Paul Azinger claimed a victory in 2000, he insisted of the method, "I was instantly better." When Steve Flesch won while anchoring three years later, he concluded, "This is like cheating."

Before his Open Championship victory, Els famously maintained, "As long as it's legal, I'll keep cheating like the rest of 'em."

As popularity grew among the professional ranks, though, so did the backlash.

In the wake of that initial proposal to ban anchoring, USGA executive director Mike Davis explained, "More players are using it, and instructors are saying this is a more efficient way to putt because you don't have to control the whole stroke. The game has been around for 600 years. Fundamentally, we don't think this is the right way to go."

While contemporaries such as Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk briefly experimented with the anchored putting style, Tiger Woods remained among those fundamentally opposed to the idea.

"Anchoring should not be a part of the game," he said before the banishment was approved in 2013. "It should be mandatory to have to swing all 14 clubs."

Because any violation of Rule 14-1b carries a two-stroke penalty in stroke play and loss of hole penalty in match play, don't expect any posthumous appearances from the anchored stroke.

In coming weeks and months, some observers may allege to witness these appearances, however, they will likely be confusing anchoring for the aforementioned long (or belly) putter, which can still be used in competition without directly being braced against an anchor point.

And so it came to pass that anchored putting has left the game of competitive golf.