KAPALUA, HAWAII (AP) - Carl Pettersson says the proposed rule to ban the anchored stroke for long putters feels like a “witch hunt,” and that golf’s governing bodies were only reacting to three of the last five major champions using a belly putter.
“It seems silly to ban something that’s been around for 40 years,” Pettersson said in his first comments since the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club announced plans Nov. 28 to outlaw anchored strokes. “It’s unfortunate. I feel like I’m 16 years behind because I haven’t putted with anything else for 16 years.”
Pettersson, who qualified for the Tournament of Champions by winning at Hilton Head, began using a broom-handle putter that he anchors to his chest between his sophomore and junior year at North Carolina State.
Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship), Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (British Open) used a belly putter to win their majors.
Two more months of comment period remain before the rule becomes official, and then it does not take effect until the next Rules of Golf is published Jan. 1, 2016.
Pettersson long has argued that he has spent thousands of hours practicing the stroke, which did not come naturally to him, and that to start over would put him at an unfair disadvantage. He was said to be among those who might consider a lawsuit if the rule is adopted, though the easygoing Swede said he would see how this year unfolded.
“I don’t know,” he said when asked if he would challenge the rule. “I haven’t made up my mind yet. I’m just going to sit back and see what happens.”
In the meantime, he has no plans to change putters.
Simpson said he had been practicing on occasion with a short putter in case of a ban, and Bradley had some fun at the World Challenge last month when he grabbed a short putter on the practice green at Sherwood and made a 20-foot putt.
Both showed up at Kapalua with their belly putters.
“I’m not going to change,” Bradley said. “I’m not even thinking about it, to be honest. I’m going to wait for the rule to pass first, and then I’ll think about what to do.”
Pettersson said he tinkered with a few grips during his month at home in North Carolina, though not to the point that he practiced on a real green. He also said he was not surprised by the decision, saying it became clear in the last few months that the USGA and R&A were leaning toward a ban.
“It feels a bit like a witch hunt to me,” Pettersson said. “It was a pure reaction to Keegan and Ernie and Webb. They keep harping on the younger generation using them, but I think they’re going to ban it because it looks bad. But you have strong arguments from other players, too.”
Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker and Graeme McDowell are on a long list of players who use conventional putters and believe an anchored stroke should go away, saying it takes the skill out of putting because the top part of the club is anchored to the body.