The United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient are expected to make an announcement soon on the use of popular long/belly putters, but whatever that announcement is, there is no guarantee that the PGA Tour will automatically go along with it.
Jim Furyk says it’s too early to tell, but adds that the controversy over the long putters has really only been brewing, to his knowledge, since the U.S. Open.
Three of the past four major champions have used long putters, which have been around for years and while Furyk isn’t certain the PGA Tour will go along with any edict from golf’s governing body, he says it goes beyond the pros to recreational golfers.
Furyk says he supports different sets of equipment rules for touring pros and recreational golfers as a way to enhance fun in the game. My most recent column in Sun Media deals with this issue. You can read it below:
As protectors of all that is good in golf and of the game’s rule book, the game’s governing bodies are renowned for sleeping in on matters such as the long putters that they apparently just noticed in the hands of three of the past four major winners.
The premise of the argument is understandable. Long putters promote anchoring against the belly or chest to steady the hands and body. The United States Golf Association and Royal and Ancient have indicated a ruling may soon be coming about their use.
The problem is that the alarm is just going off now for golf’s czars, even though these apparent tools of destruction have been around for years with varying popularity.
Depending on how they word whatever ruling is coming, it could affect players who use them and equipment manufacturers that have ramped up production of such putters. The idea of an equipment manufacturer filing a lawsuit isn’t far-fetched and it’s happened before.
Brandt Snedker, who is at Hamilton Golf and Country Club to commence the RBC Canadian Open on Thursday, was surrounded by a couple of guys — Ernie Els and Adam Scott — who used the long putter as he contended for last week’s British Open.
“There is a rule in the book about it. It’s kind of a gray area. (The R&A and USGA) have chosen not to enforce it and they’ve gotten themselves in a situation now where they’re going to have to do something about it,” said Snedeker.
Jim Furyk, who played a long putter for a short time last season, added the PGA Tour won’t automatically roll over and go along with it.
“The tour has gone opposite of what the USGA has done or done something different than the USGA, so it wouldn’t be the first time,” said Furyk.
“I would be out of line speaking really about what we would do as a board when we really haven’t talked about it,” said Furyk, adding that he’s heard the controversy for years.
“I think, this time, they’re serious to put it in simple terms. If that’s the case, we would need to talk as a tour what we would do,” he added.
“I feel like it’s a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction. All of a sudden, you’ve got Keegan (Bradley) at the PGA (Championship), you’ve got Webb (Simpson) at the U.S. Open. You’ve got Ernie,” he said.
“I didn’t hear that much about it until after the U.S. Open and then, it was brought to my attention as a board member of the PGA Tour that they were seriously considering it,” said Furyk, adding that such a decision goes beyond the tour.
“I’ve got a lot of friends that don’t putt very well at our local club that shoot 80 to 85. They enjoy the game of golf. Tney putt with a belly putter or long putter. It helps them get around and to take that away, I think, takes away from the enjoyment of golf,” he said.
“With what we’ve got going on with people leaving the game and less and less people playing, I think the golf is maybe coming around a little bit,” said Furyk, adding that everything that can be done to encourage fun among recreational golfers.
If that includes belly putters, so be it and it could go beyond that. Bifurcation is a fancy word used for the concept that recreational players should be playing under entirely different equipment rules than elite players, but golf’s governing bodies have resisted.
“I really don’t see why bifurcation couldn’t work,” said Furyk. “I’m sure someone could give me a good idea why. I just haven’t heard it yet,” he said.