Anchor ban could have major impact
It's difficult to imagine a force strong enough to cast a shadow over the Masters. It's no accident that Augusta National Golf Club has an Amen Corner. It is golf's modern sanctuary, a preserve for the history of the game and its greatest champions.
But in less than a month, when the best players in the world convene at the year's first major for the 77th edition of the Masters, the tranquil setting conceived by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie could be jolted by controversy.
This Masters will be the first major championship held since the USGA and the R&A proposed banning anchoring in November.
In the field in Augusta, there will be players on both sides of the issue. Some will have a chance to win the green jacket because they use the anchoring method.
No player has ever won the event using the technique.
Adam Scott will be one of those competitors wielding the system on the fast and undulating greens at Augusta. The 32-year-old Australian, who has anchored a long putter since 2011, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the ban.
Last week at Doral, he slammed the proposed ruling, whose fate will be decided by the end of the year.
"I can't believe they're making rules based on subjective opinions and not based on any evidence," Scott said. "We're making rules for the betterment of the game based on zero evidence? Incredible."
In November, Scott challenged Tiger Woods' assertion that the putter should be the shortest club in the bag.
"[Tiger's] voice carries some weight on the issue; a lot of players have been quite outspoken about it and certainly when Tiger Woods speaks about it, it generates a lot of interest," Scott said. "But I'm not necessarily sure his views on what the putters should be are correct at all.
"I don't think the putter should be the shortest club in the bag; that has never been a rule in golf so I don't know why it should be now."
Scott's second-place finish at the 2012 Open Championship -- and wins in majors with the method by Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els -- were the likely impetus for the timing of the governing bodies' decision to introduce a ban.
MASTERS MOMENTS VIDEOS
• 2012: Watson's wedge makes magic
• 2010: Mickelson's third, from the trees
• 2004: Mickelson nabs first major win
• 2001: Woods polishes off Tiger Slam
• 1997: Woods' win for the ages
• 1996: Faldo wins, Norman collapses
• 1995: Crenshaw's tearful victory
• 1992: Couples' miracle on 12
• 1987: Mize's miraculous chip
• 1986: Nicklaus takes 6th green jacket
To a group of reporters at Doral, Scott defended Bradley and the other anchorers.
"Tim [Clark] has spent thousands of hours practicing a method that is allowed," Scott said. "Keegan Bradley has spent thousands of hours practicing, rehearsing this method that's been allowed. How do you just cut the legs out from us over your view that you don't like seeing a junior putt [by anchoring]?"
Scott is in the field this week at the Tampa Bay Championship. At Doral, the eight-time tour winner shot a bogey-free 64 in the final round to get a tie for third. The former Players Championship winner likes the condition of his game heading into this week as he tries to build momentum for Augusta.
"At the moment I'm very comfortable with where everything's at," Scott said. "Short game feels better this year than it ever has. It would be good to keep it going [in Tampa]."
Scott is making just his third appearance at Innisbrook. In his last start on the Larry Packard-designed Copperhead course in 2010, he had a tie for 28th.
The 2011 Masters was Scott's coming-out party with the anchoring technique. He had gone to the long putter at the Match Play earlier that year, anchoring the grip end to his chest. He felt comfortable with it almost immediately.
Since that tie for second at that Masters, Scott has had five top-15 finishes in seven majors. Last year at Augusta, he earned a tie for eighth.
Anchoring has made him a real contender in the majors. In the past two years, he's had as many top 10s in majors (four) as he had in his previous 39 trips to the big four.
So he has good reason for concern over the ban. He's seen the before and after picture of his putting that career anchorers such as Bradley and Simpson have never experienced in their time on tour.
The Masters hasn't weighed in on the issue, but it's likely to fall in in line behind the two governing bodies. Scott may ultimately have to learn how to win a green jacket with a conventional putting method.
But for now he can try to earn his first major championship on his own terms. He'd better take advantage of this opportunity, because he might not have it for very long.
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