Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson are among an increasing number of PGA Tour golfers with a great deal at stake when the USGA and R&A’s proposed ban on the anchored putting stroke takes effect in three years. Neither major titleholder, however, planned to fight the ruling.
“I’m obviously not happy with the ruling but I respect the USGA, especially [executive director] Mike Davis, and they make the rules and I’ll adjust appropriately,” Bradley, the first PGA Tour golfer to win a major championship with a long putter, told reporters Tuesday on the eve of the long-anticipated announcement from golf’s governing bodies. “I’m going to accept the challenge and hopefully do well when they do ban it.”
The New Englander also back-pedaled from previous statements that made it sound as if the 2011 PGA champ were itching for a fight.
“I’m going to do whatever I have to do to protect myself and the other players on tour,” Bradley told Golf Channel’s Alex Miceli earlier this year. “I look at it as a whole, as us all together. I don’t look at it as much about myself. I think that for them to ban this after we’ve done what we’ve done is unbelievable.”
Bradley was far more placating on Tuesday.
“I never said that,” averred the Woodstock, Vt., native. “I never said the word ‘sue,’ I never said the words ‘legal action.’”
This year’s U.S. Open winner and the 2011 Deutsche Bank champion also appeared averse to a long, drawn-out battle with golf’s regulators, though he did not completely rule out a future clash.
“I mean, honestly, in my heart, for me to seek legal action would be — if I get to a point where I want to use a belly putter that bad,” said a clearly uncomfortable Simpson, who, with Bradley, was one of 18 golfers playing in this week’s World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. “And so whether I want to get on the team with the guys that are or not, I don’t know yet.”
With Bradley resigned to the ruling and 2012 British Open winner Ernie Els — who last month suggested he might take an anchoring ban to court — absent from the discussion on Wednesday, it was unclear if a “team” of golfers would band together to contest the ruling.
For sure, R&A executive director Peter Dawson went out of his way to insist that the proposed reg, which will kick in starting Jan. 1, 2016, was unrelated to the putting preferences of three of the last five major championships. Good luck convincing Bradley or Simpson of that.
“I think, obviously, Keegan and I and Ernie winning majors has been a big thing,” said Simpson, who stressed that anchoring offered no competitive advantage. “My argument the whole time is to change something that drastic, it needs to be based off facts and not…what certain people think the tradition of the game looks like.”
Still, Simpson could read the tea leaves and had already begun practicing with a conventional flat stick. Bradley, on the other hand, planned to navigate the greens with his belly stick for as long as possible and then give in to the inevitable.
“I’m going to obviously obey the rules and respect what the USGA does,” Bradley said. “I’m not going to cause a big problem.”