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Arnold Palmer states case for putter rules

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:37 p.m.
Arnold Palmer answers questions from reporters during a news conference Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in Orlando, Fla.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Arnold Palmer strongly stated his case Wednesday that golf doesn't need a “contraption” like the anchored putting stroke and the sport's success requires everyone to play by the same rules.

In a wide-ranging press conference prior to his tournament at Bay Hill, Palmer said he supported the proposed rule that would outlaw attaching the club against the body, which is the method used for long putters and belly putters.

“To attach it to your body in any way is taking a little bit away from the game,” Palmer said. “I'm not going to argue with anybody about it. I've stated my position, and that is we do not need a contraption to play the game of golf.

“I would hope that we'd play under one set of rules, and those rules would include a ban on the long putter hooked to the body.”

The U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club proposed a new rule to ban such a stroke. The PGA Tour and PGA of America have said they oppose the ban, with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem saying there is no data to prove there is a competitive advantage to using the anchored stroke.

Finchem has said he could see a place for different rules in tournament golf and recreational play, though he has suggested the anchored stroke might not be one of them. PGA of America president Ted Bishop has been more forceful, saying in a recent blog that “bifurcation seems destined” if the rule takes effect in 2016.

The USGA and R&A are expected to announce soon whether to approve the new rule.

The possibility of two sets of rules seemed to agitate Palmer, who helped golf become popular with the masses a half-century ago when he won the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open and the British Open.

“I don't think that golf has a place for two sets of rules,” Palmer said. “I think one of the reasons that the game has progressed in the way that it has over the years is the fact that the amateurs and the pros all play the same game and they play under the same set of rules. I feel like that is very, very important. It may be the key to the future success of the game of golf, just the fact that there will be one set of rules and we'll all play by them.”

Palmer was less serious when it came to Rory McIlroy, who decided not to play the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Bay Hill has the strongest field of the year so far among regular PGA Tour events, though it is missing the No. 1 player. Palmer had jokingly said he would break McIlroy's arm if he didn't play, then clarified Wednesday it was only a passing comment.

“I sort of threw a casual fun at him,” Palmer said. “It was meant to be funny.”

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