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Analysis: Bradley, Clark faces of putter debate

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By The Associated Press
Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 7:45 p.m.
 

Bruce Lietzke would have noticed a banana inside the cover of his long putter.

One of the famous stories about Lietzke is that he never touched a club when he wasn't on the PGA Tour. His caddie didn't believe him, so at the end of the 1984 season, he put a banana inside the head cover of Lietzke's driver before zipping up the travel bag. Some weeks later at the Bob Hope Classic, the caddie excitedly unzipped the travel bag.

“Sure enough, he pulled off that head cover, and the banana ... it was not yellow,” Lietzke said Monday. “It was black, nasty, fungus. He said he'd never doubt me again.”

Lietzke confessed to breaking his own rules when it came to the broom-handled putter that he picked up at the Phoenix Open in 1991 and used the rest of his career. Even in his down time, he would tinker with the length of the putter and practice with it. And he wonders what the conversation would have been like today if that 1991 PGA Championship had turned out differently.

Lietzke was the runner-up at Crooked Stick behind a big-hitting rookie named John Daly.

Imagine if Lietzke had won that major. Would the USGA have banned the putter he anchored against his chest?

“I think so,” Lietzke said. “Judging by their reaction to major successes, I guess they were just waiting for this to happen. The USGA should have made a statement then.”

That was one of the arguments PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem put forth Sunday when he said the tour was against the proposed rule that would ban the anchored stroke used for long putters and belly putters.

Without any empirical evidence that an anchored stroke is easier, why ban it?

The faces in this discussion — and that's all it is right now — are Keegan Bradley and Tim Clark, for vastly different reasons.

It was Bradley's win at the PGA Championship that prompted serious talk about the future of anchored strokes. Bradley is lumped in with three of the past five major champions using a belly putter, but he was the catalyst.

As for Clark?

It was his dignified speech at Torrey Pines that led even the staunch opponents of long putters to look at them differently. More than one person in the room that night has described his presentation as a game-changer.

That much was reflected in the overwhelming support from the Player Advisory Council and player-directors on the tour's policy board that the PGA Tour should oppose the USGA on this rule.

It's tricky figuring out where this will lead.

The PGA Tour sent the USGA a letter last week spelling out its opposition to Rule 14-1(b), and the PGA of America and its 27,000 club pros are also against the ban.

One reason Finchem decided to speak about the letter was his concern that the discussion was being portrayed as a showdown. Right now, it's a matter of opinion.

If it becomes a showdown, high noon is not until the USGA and R&A decide whether to go ahead with the rule. And that decision won't come until the spring.

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