Monday, December 3, 2012

Heckling of Bradley Deplorable (No, It's Not Cheating)

You probably heard the news: Keegan Bradley, playing in his first tournament since the USGA/R&A proposed rule change that will (if finalized) ban anchoring, was heckled during the World Golf Challenge. Specifically, he was taunted with cries of "cheater!"

How deplorable. But not entirely unpredictable. In fact, in the aftermath of the anchoring announcement, the (possible) bad treatment by fans of current anchorers was one of the issues raised as a potential point of worry.

But let's get this straight: Anchoring a belly putter or broomstick putter was specifically allowed by the USGA and R&A for all these past years; it remains permissable right now; and it will be 100-percent legal right up to until the very second it becomes illegal. Which, as of now, is expected to Jan. 1, 2016. A golfer anchoring a putter at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2015, will not be breaking the rules, and will have every right to be anchoring.

So it was good to see the USGA coming down so hard on those moronic hecklers in a statement in response to Bradley's experience at the World Challenge:

"This is a deplorable incident, and there is no place in our game for this kind of behavior. As we noted when announcing proposed Rule 14-1b, it has been and remains entirely within the Rules of Golf for players to anchor the club while making a stroke. There should not be a shred of criticism of such players or any qualification or doubt about their achievements, and we think that it is inappropriate even to suggest anything to the contrary. Rule changes address the future and not the past. Up until now and until such time as a Rule change were to be implemented, golfers using an anchored stroke will have been playing by the Rules of Golf.

"We are sorry that Keegan had to experience this unfounded criticism from an obviously uneducated spectator. Instead, Keegan and other PGA Tour professionals should be commended for their maturity and grace in managing through a proposed change to the Rules of Golf."

If you think it's cheating for a golfer to be anchoring right now, then you also must believe that Bobby Jones was a cheater because he played with concave-faced wedges before they were ruled non-conforming; you must believe Jack Nicklaus was a USGA cheater because for years he switched to the smaller "British ball" (USGA non-conforming) when playing the British Open; you must believe every golfer on all the professional tours who used square grooves were cheaters. And so on, going back through many rules changes over the decades that caused once conforming equipment or strokes to become non-conforming.

The obligation of every golfer is to play under the rules that are in place at the time; not to play under past rules or future rules. Bradley, and all the anchorers, have done only this: abided by the rules in place.

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