The Captain: Belly putters? So what.
10:30am Wednesday 27th February 2013 in Sport
So Tiger Woods’ long -serving, estranged wife Elin Nordegren has decided to take pity on the old dog and welcome him back into the family fold.
Despite a reported infidelity count of 120, the former Mrs Woods has clearly become so bored with seeing the dishevelled image of a once untouchable sporting icon beamed into her living room with such alarming regularity over the past 3 years that she has finally taken pity on him.
It’s less front page news, and more the idle gossip of caddies around the clubhouse.
No, the big news in golf this week is the eruption of a debate that threatens to divide the sport.
The usually serene and dignified manner in which the golfing community conduct themsleves (Tiger Woods saga aside), is on the one hand a perfect example of how sport should be played and sportsmen and women should conduct themselves, but on the other, how rules can be interpreted far too literally.
Golf can be the most anal sport in the world, and at the highest level even the slightest deviation from the rules (etched into a stone tablet and delivered to us mere mortals direct from the 18th tee at St Andrews by golf’s own Moses, Jack Nicklaus) can potentially result in a collosal loss of earnings.
Take for instance Dustin Johnson, who was disqulaified from the 2011 PGA Championship.
The reason? He grounded his club in a bunker on the 72nd hole, thereby missing out on his first major championship victory, and with it the promise of untold riches and a hefty boost up the world rankings.
Now, though, that sacred rule book is under threat from a terrible new foe: belly putters.
In my opinion, how a man strokes his ball on the green, and with what, is his own business. But the belly putter’s presence on golf courses across the world has become a major threat to the establishment, causing an interesting rift in the higher echelons of the game.
So what’s difference? Well, the ‘long putter’ or ‘belly putter’ is anchored against the body to provide more stablility when putting , and reduce the ‘degree of freedom’ - whatever that means - afforded to the player with shorter stemmed putters.
It has already divided the playing side of the golfing community with some, like Tiger Woods, feeling it gives players an unfair advantage.
But advocates, like Jim Furyk, disagree. The fact that Furyk’s short game improved dramatically following his switch to the belly putter is neither here nor there - there has been no definitive proof either way as to whether it does genuinely give someone a putting advantage.
Plus it’s available to anyone and everyone, so that should really be the end of it.
But this divisive issue has recently come to the fore because the U.S. Golf Association, and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club announced a proposed rule change which bans long-stemmed putters in lieu of trying to establish whether using these apparent instruments of the devil constitutes a 'stroke' in the golfing legal sense.
Although it was actually made on the 28th of November last year, a 90-day comment period was put on the table - that period expires soon.
So now the big boys have started throwing their weight around (in the most dignified of fashions of course) to try and resolve the issue.
PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said; “Essentially, where the PGA Tour came down was that they did not think that banning anchoring was in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour,” which essentially means: “What's all the fuss about?” My sentiments exactly.
Until tangible evidence is put on the table to prove one way or the other whether the use of belly putters in anyway constitutes an advantage, then the whole argument is a complete waste of everyone’s time.
Still, golf has never been a sport to avoid the opportunity to waste some time. Men and women play golf for that very reason every week up and the down the country, and I’m sure they’ll all be waiting with baited breath for the outcome of the ruling. OK, maybe not.
Still, at least Tiger and Elin are back together.