Keegan Bradley 'sick' of putter debate

Updated: February 26, 2013, 9:08 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Keegan Bradley, the first player to win a major championship using a belly putter, is "sick" of the anchoring debate and said he continues to be called a cheater by fans and some writers who believe the practice should be banned.

Bradley has been a focal point of such discussions since golf's governing bodies proposed an anchoring ban on Nov. 28, with discussion on both sides of the issue continuing.

"It's been actually pretty difficult,'' Bradley said Tuesday at PGA National, where he will play in this week's Honda Classic. "Especially lately. I'm being called a cheater more than ever by fans, by some writers. ... It's really tough. 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 for it to be over.''

The anchored stroke that Bradley uses would be outlawed beginning Jan. 1, 2016, if the rule proposed by the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Club is adopted.

That appeared to be a formality when the two organizations jointly announced their intentions to amend golf's rule book on Nov. 28, with a three-month comment period scheduled to end Thursday.

But the debate has intensified and took an unusual twist on Sunday when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem went on television to state his belief that the USGA/R&A should drop their plans to ban anchoring.

So far, the European Tour has not taken a public stance on the issue.

If the ban is enacted and the PGA Tour were to go against the rule, it would be the first time the tour has ever acted outside of the Rules of Golf.

"I'm very proud and it makes me feel good that the tour I play on has my back,'' Bradley said. "I think now that this comment period the USGA has been talking about, they have heard from two of the biggest organizations in the world, the PGA Tour and the PGA of America saying they don't agree with the USGA.

"If they are really taking this comment period seriously, I think they really need to look at what's been said by both those organizations.''

The PGA of America, which trains and certifies club professionals while also running the PGA Championship, has come out against the ban.

Former European star Colin Montgomerie said the debate has "reached a very dangerous position.''

"It's just a bit of a mess,'' said Rory McIlroy, who has stated he is against anchoring. "It's just opened a can of worms with it.''

Keegan Bradley
AP Photo/Matt SlocumThe PGA Tour is opposing the proposed ban on anchoring putters, a stance that should delight golfers such as Keegan Bradley.

The USGA/R&A could decide to drop their proposal, which would be the cleanest and easiest solution. It could enact the proposal and have all of the various golf tours go along. Or it could enact, and see some follow and some not, creating crazy scenarios in regard to various tournaments where anchoring might or might not be allowed.

"Some of the guys that have come out strongly against it, I don't understand,'' Bradley said. "Because it doesn't affect them, it affects me. ... For the most part people are super respectful, but it's very easy to pick out those few, and the word cheater, I mean, it's amazing that people can say that. It's probably the worst thing you could ever say to an athlete.''

When the proposed ban was first announced in November at the World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Bradley heard comments about cheating from spectators. The USGA quickly reacted to denounce any such comments, saying that an anchored stroke continues to be allowed under the Rules of Golf.

"The professional game globally is stronger than it's ever been and that on the heels of having anchoring as part of it for the last 30 or 40 years,'' Finchem said Sunday at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. "You can't point to one negative impact of anchoring.''

To which Montgomerie countered in an interview with Sky Sports: "The rules of golf were set by the R&A and the USGA. Tim Finchem has obviously thought otherwise."

"Very dangerous, very dangerous situation we are getting ourselves into," Montgomerie said. "I do hope they can sort this out very, very quickly. In my view, the long putter -- whether it should have been banned 20 years ago or not -- should be banned now, and I think [R&A chief executive] Peter Dawson is dead right, I think Mike Davis [executive director] of the USGA is dead right as well. The pair of them have got together with their committees and decided this is the rules of golf and we should abide by that.

"To now go against that and say, 'Right, well, my players aren't going to go by that and we're going to have a local rule where you can anchor the putter,' then what happens?"

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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