Now that anchored putters are away, the USGA and R&A should really tighten things up.
By RANDY YOUNGMAN
We can all sleep more comfortably, with our collective conscience cleansed, now that golf’s governing bodies took the next step to rid the sport of the universally scorned anchored putting stroke beginning in 2016.
The United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient had to act now, in the wake of Adam Scott winning the 2013 Masters with a long putter to complete the Anchored Putting Slam in the span of less than two years.
If you’re not keeping score at home, going into the U.S. Open at Merion, four of the past six major champions had used unconventional putters wedged into various body parts: 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley (belly putter), 2012 U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson (belly putter), 2012 British Open champion Ernie Els (belly putter) and Scott (chest broomstick).
How utterly embarrassing. I’m sure it was difficult for USGA boss Mike Davis and R&A honcho Peter Dawson to show their faces in public until they announced the future ban for the good of the game.
But you know what? The governing bodies didn’t go far enough. One major change in the Rules of Golf isn’t enough. Everything that gives golfers an unfair advantage, or even the perception of one, should be eliminated.
Here are a few more proposed rule changes that should go into the 2016 rulebook to make the game fair for everyone:
** Limits on practice time and conditioning: The pros who practice the most and work out the longest and hardest (see Tiger Woods) usually are the most successful, so that competitive advantage has to be curtailed. No more banging eight large buckets of balls every day (that means you, Vijay). No more lifting weights and running on treadmills and stretching. It would be more equitable if all players looked like Tim Herron and Boo Weekley. Golf is a game of honor, so all players will be expected to police themselves.
** Revolving caddies: Knowledgeable caddies, especially ones who have remained with a player for a long time, are an undisputed advantage, so a caddie pool will be established. Before every tour event, the pros will draw the name of a caddie out of Tim Finchem’s hat. It could create some drama, too. Who wouldn’t want to see Tiger reunited with Steve Williams or Fluff Cowan for a weekend? Or how about Vijay Singh getting stuck with Bones MacKay, Phil Mickelson’s caddie? And if tour pros object, they can carry their own bags.
** Stopwatches for all: Allow spectators to get more involved in pro tournaments by calling slow-play violations on players. If a player takes more than his allotted 45 seconds to hit his shot, members of the gallery can notify the rules official onsite so that a one-stroke penalty can be assessed. Wouldn’t you love to do that to Ben Crane, Kevin Na, Jim Furyk, Bernhard Langer, Keegan Bradley or Sergio Garcia? (This isn’t any more radical than Champions Tour pro David Eger calling in to report Tiger’s illegal drop at the Masters.)
** One-ball rule: Not only do tour pros have to play with the same golf ball – one brand, as determined by each tournament, not by endorsement deals – each pro is given one marked ball on the first tee of the first round. If he loses it, he is disqualified and heads to the 19th hole or the parking lot to slam his trunk. That means there is drama on every shot and that anybody could win in a given week (except John Daly) if he can keep his ball in play. What is more fair than that?
** No more hybrids: They’re too easy to hit. Bring back the 1- and 2-irons. Bring back integrity to the game.
** No tees allowed: Wooden pegs obviously help golfers hit it farther, so no more tees. Simple as that. You don’t use a tee in the fairway, so you can’t use them anywhere on the course, unless you need a toothpick.
** Stymies allowed: If your ball on the green blocks your opponent’s path to the cup, too bad. Play around it or chip over it. That’s what tour pros used to do until 1952. You can look it up. Think Sergio would try to putt so that his ball stops in Tiger’s line? More entertainment. It would be great for the game.
** Heckling allowed: Why not? If basketball players can shoot free throws with everybody screaming in the arena, why can’t tour pros concentrate with people in the gallery yelling, “Noonan!” Why do you think Earl Woods, Tiger’s father, jingled car keys when Tiger was learning to play? To learn how to block out distractions, of course.
Anyone else think USGA and R&A should have kept the rulebook in their pocket?