Keegan Bradley was pleased that the USGA supported him after a spectator at Tiger Woods’ World Challenge charged him with cheating in the wake of golf’s governing bodies’ proposal to ban anchored putting strokes. But the New England native and first PGA Tour player to win a major with a belly putter, who on Thursday blamed the USGA and R&A for making him a target of such hecklers, sounded anxious on Sunday for the entire brouhaha to blow over.
“Yeah, I did [notice that the USGA issued a statement deploring the heckler’s rudeness],” Bradley told media members after a second-place finish at Woods’ limited-field invitational. “That was very nice.”
Bradley, who Sunday praised the fans and reported no similar scenes during the final round of Woods’ limited-field invitational, added that he did not “want to make yesterday into too big of a deal.”
Still, Bradley, who has vociferously opposed the proposal, took umbrage a day earlier after a loud mouth labeled him a fraud for continuing to brace his long putter against his mid-section. That, even though the rule change outlawing the way Bradley and many others maneuver their flat sticks around the greens was slated for enactment in 2016 — a fact the USGA stressed in its unusual Sunday morning pronouncement decrying the “deplorable incident.”
Bradley, who said last week that the USGA and R&A put an X on his back with their joint announcement, may be in for additional tweaking at the Franklin Templeton Shootout over the weekend. Last year’s rookie of the year will partner with Brendan Steele in defense of their 2011 title. With Steele another member of the belly putter brigade, the duo could be in for an interesting three days at Tiburon Golf Club.
Episodes like that which Bradley encountered are among the reasons tour officials and players, at their annual meeting in January, are likely to discuss instituting the ban sooner than 2016. No one wants situations like what happened at Tiger’s tourney to dominate the conversation each time a golfer with a long putter wins or contends.
Here’s the USGA statement in full:
“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.
“While we understand that the proposed Rules change would cause some short-term angst, we believe the new Rule would serve the long-term best interest of the game.”