Fear. I'd been here before - playing for bragging rights in a men's club tournament with a group of good friends. And history was not on my side. Nor was the current state of my mind. As the putt slid by the left edge, I knew I'd left myself a little left-breaking downhill putt. It's one I make 99 out of 100 times on the range and don't think twice about it. But with something on the line I cared about, I let my right wrist break and pushed the putt to the left. And the three-footer coming back. When I left a five-footer short on the next hole, one of my buddies shook his head and simply said, "You are so inside your own head right now." And that is the very heart of the sensitive chord struck with Tuesday's announcement by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association to outlaw the use of anchoring long putters to the body beginning in 2016. I'm what you might call a driving range all-star. I can win side games and look like a scratch golfer with 100 balls and meaningless targets in front of me. Good balance and solid mechanics from 30-plus years of playing the game. However, hundreds of rounds have also built a deep reservoir of terrible shots that my memory can recall like Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind." It typically rears its ugly head on the putting green, where shaky hands can make a six-inch tap-in feel like a daunting task. That's why I immediately jumped staunchly in the corner of Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker and Steve Stricker when they came out in favor of banning the use of anchored putting strokes. I'm in full agreement it takes away from the intent to have a "free swing," where nerves must be managed every bit as much as mechanics. Tim Clark can give all the impassioned speeches he wants about how anchoring the putter goes back decades, or even longer. There's a reason why he and Carl Pettersson have used anchored putters since joining the PGA Tour. As Snedeker said last November, "It works." Adam Scott has one of the best pure swings you'll ever see, but his inability to hit clutch putts always held the Aussie back from joining the world's elite golfers. When he switched to an anchor-based putter, Scott became far more consistent and nearly won the British Open last year before breaking through at The Masters last month. Ernie Els won that British Open over Scott, using a belly putter to help fix the putting woes he has encountered as he slowly leaves his prime. I've often wondered if we'd even know Keegan Bradley or Webb Simpson -- two more major champions --without their mastery of long putters shoved into their chests or bellies. Would the golf world be a less entertaining place without those figures? Hardly. We'd simply have more dramatic stories to rehash along the lines of Retief Goosen nearly choking away the 2001 U.S. Open with a missed two-footer on the 72nd hole, or I.K. Kim's heartbreaking loss at the LPGA's Kraft Nabisco Championship last year when she missed a one-foot putt on the final hole of regulation. Overcoming nerves with a pure swing of the flat stick speaks to the beauty of the sport. Truth be told, if I wasn't so stubborn to fix my own flaws and had the patience to revamp a major part of my game, I'd have no hesitation in using an anchored putter if it took my "yips" and gave them a proper burial at sea. And there's the rub. The USGA ruling will outlaw anchoring a putter to your body for all amateurs. The PGA Tour, however, is considering whether it will follow suit and likewise institute the rule for its professionals. Translation: Come 2016, I won't be allowed to solve my yips through the use of an anchored putter, but Scott could still be hoisting major tournament trophies without having to test the strength of his nerves through the most minute movements in his hands and wrists. That's where the entire issue has taken a duck hook into the forest. I could care less if the champion at my local muni earned his bragging rights after elevating his game with a putter shoved into his belly. It's far more important that millions of amateur golfers every year are enjoying the game -- or returning to it -- because a long putter has made the sport ... gasp ... more fun. I do care that the best golfers in the world who literally have millions of dollars riding on every putt, are put to the test in the truest sense of the word. You can show me a picture of a golfer from 60 years ago with an anchored putter, but it's not going to change the equation when it comes to the debate the PGA Tour continued to fail to put to rest Tuesday when it said it will review its plans come 2016. All Commissioner Tim Finchem needs to listen to is two words. It works.
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