LANGER COMES CLEAN

From a dis­tance, it’s dif­fi­cult to tell any dif­fer­ence at all in Bern­hard Langer’s pre- and post-an­chor­ing ban putting stroke. But the win­ner of more than 100 pro­fes­sional tour­na­ments is adamant he’s a man of in­tegrity and not break­ing the rules.

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS JUSTIN DOYLE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY GETTY IMAGES

Bern­hard Langer wants to set the record straight. The win­ner of more than 100 pro­fes­sional tour­na­ments openly dis­cusses his con­tro­ver­sial putting stroke in this world ex­clu­sive.

Aseis­mic tremor with many af­ter­shocks shook the golf world last year as the great Bern­hard Langer be­came the cen­tre of ac­cu­sa­tions that he was, against the re­cent rule changes, ‘an­chor­ing’ his put­ter. Some went as far as to call him a “cheat.”

In terms of ma­jor vic­to­ries, Langer may not stand along­side modern greats of the game like Jack Nick­laus; Tom Wat­son; Gary Player and Tiger Woods. But, with more than 100 vic­to­ries to his name, he is one of the truly great Euro­pean golfers. Along with Sev­e­ri­ano Balles­teros, he most cer­tainly pi­o­neered the way for his fel­low con­ti­nen­tal Euro­peans.

In fact, when of­fi­cial World Rank­ings were ini­ti­ated, he be­came Europe and the World’s first World No.1 golfer in 1986. Away from golf and the gen­eral pub­lic’s eye, the list of awards are far too nu­mer­ous to men­tion but some make even more im­pres­sive read­ing.

When one thinks about world his­tory and in par­tic­u­lar World War II, then con­sider that this Ger­man was dec­o­rated with an OBE in the Queen’s Honours List! He has also been recog­nised by his beloved Ger­many with their

IF WE BE­LIEVE THAT THE CLUB IS CLOSE TO BE­ING AN­CHORED, THEN WE WILL ASK HIM. IF HE SAYS HE IS NOT, THEN HE IS NOT. – JOHN PARAMOR

high­est awards and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­cently re­ferred to him as “that very fa­mous golfer Bern­hard Langer”.

Many are also aware of his de­vout Chris­tian be­liefs and prac­tice as well as his char­ity work.

So how on earth did he land him­self in the dock of golf’s court so-to-speak and what is this is­sue all about. Is he an­chor­ing?

O‚cially, un­der the rules of golf, ‘an­chor­ing’ is when the club, or the grip­ping hand, or a part of the fore­arm is held against the body. This re­lieves the player from mak­ing a free swing by re­strict­ing the move­ment of the club as if it were phys­i­cally at­tached to the player’s body. Thereby it pro­vides ex­tra sup­port and sta­bil­ity for the stroke.

But writ­ing for the Golf Chan­nel in July 2017, pro­fes­sional golfer and TV an­a­lyst Brandel Cham­blee poured con­fu­sion on the is­sue of an­chor­ing. He wrote that the afore­men­tioned rule is ren­dered mean­ing­less when the word ‘in­tent’ is en­crypted into the rule and that golf bod­ies in­clud­ing the USGA ac­cept this.

In other words, if a player is pulled up for an­chor­ing, then the ‘get out of jail card’ is that there was no ‘in­tent’. So as the player is shown the re­play, if he or she states they did not ‘in­tend’ to do it, they are let o“ with a cau­tion.

First o“, what made the Langer con­tro­versy even more as­ton­ish­ing was that the ac­cu­sa­tions and fin­ger-point­ing were made, not pri­mar­ily by the me­dia, but by some fel­low pro­fes­sion­als. It then gath­ered apace with other golfers also ac­cus­ing him.

Be­fore this all be­gan, Langer tried many di“er­ent types of put­ters and strokes in an e“ort to move away from any­thing that re­sem­bled an­chor­ing. He was aware of a rules ban on an­chor­ing due to come into force in 2016.

By his own ad­mis­sion he tried the ‘Matt Kuchar arm-lock’ as well as or­di­nary put­ters with a cross-handed grip and a claw grip. But he re­turned to the long put­ter with a cru­cial de­ci­sion to lift his hand away from his chest as he was about to putt.

By do­ing this he re­moved an­chor­ing or so he thought. The ban on an­chor­ing was duly en­forced by the USGA and R&A in Jan­uary 2016 and so, when he won the Chubb Clas­sic on the Cham­pi­ons Tour a month later, the first mur­mur­ings of sus­pi­cion arose.

Those noises grew even louder at the US Mas­ters in April. Vet­eran Langer was caus­ing a sen­sa­tion by be­ing right up there at the top of the leader­board af­ter the third round. In fact, I was fly­ing from the UK at the time and when I asked a man next to me at check-in, how Langer was do­ing, he told me he was in sec­ond place.

Quite lit­er­ally, I raised my eye­brows. At pre­cisely the same time and thou­sands of miles away in Amer­ica, so many golfers, golf fans and rules o‚cials were also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sim­i­lar emo­tions.

Many put two and two to­gether and saw sus­pi­cion in a strong link be­tween the re­cent rules ban on an­chor­ing and Langer. To mil­lions of view­ers world­wide he was seem­ingly us­ing the same old an­chor­ing type grip of the long put­ter that he had used for years.

When Langer con­tacted me via email just af­ter Christ­mas about a di“er­ent mat­ter, I raised this is­sue with him. Af­ter all, it does not seem to be go­ing away and so he re­ally needed to ad­dress fully these ac­cu­sa­tions of cheat­ing. To his credit he did. “The an­chor­ing is­sue is an old one. It has been dealt with at least a dozen times on TV, in print and oth­er­wise. I am not an­chor­ing and I would never break the Rules of Golf.”

Yes Bern­hard. You have plenty of fol­low­ers who would be­lieve your word but what about all those who ac­cuse you of an­chor­ing? That is not enough so you re­ally need to be more con­vinc­ing: “The USGA O‚cials; R&A O‚cials; Amer­i­can PGA O‚cials; PGA Tour Rules O‚cials have all con­firmed with me that I am def­i­nitely within the Rules of golf and that they have no is­sue with my putting style,” he added.

When I pressed him on this vote of ap­proval from golf’s hi­er­ar­chy, and asked if he has any proof by way of let­ters or emails from any of them stat­ing that he is not an­chor­ing, he said:

“There are no let­ters. This was not nec­es­sary in the cir­cum­stances where we had eye to eye/ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion about the is­sue. I have also played in all their Ma­jor events the last year and so, as far as I’m con­cerned, this is the end of the dis­cus­sion.”

It was still not con­vinc­ing. I got the sense that this sub­ject is still an­noy­ing him. Maybe it is be­cause it is still there and fur­ther­more, with those ex­pla­na­tions, you can just hear dogs in the street and at the 19th hole talk­ing about brown en­velopes; vested in­ter­ests; Bernard be­ing a multi­mil­lion­aire and ex­clu­sive mem­ber of the Mas­ters green jacket club and per­haps shar­ing a glass of Ger­man lager with those in power.

It was time to go dig­ging for more. I re­searched and trawled the web even look­ing at video footage of Langer demon­strat­ing his putting tech­nique in a video for Golf Chan­nel. But sure as heck that would not wash ei­ther as one would ex­pect Langer to putt cor­rectly for a golf video.

How­ever, one ar­ti­cle caught my eye and it seemed at first glance to en­cap­su­late ev­ery­thing. It was writ­ten for an on­line web­site called ‘ThoughtCo’. Un­der a head­line ‘How is Bern­hard Langer Get­ting Away with An­chor­ing? He isn’t’,

I AM A MAN OF IN­TEGRITY AND WE ARE PLAY­ING A GAME OF IN­TEGRITY. I COULD NOT LIVE WITH MY­SELF KNOW­ING THAT I AM BREAK­ING THE RULES. –BERN­HARD LANGER

Brent Kel­ley wrote:

“When you think about golfers whose ca­reers were saved by a switch to a long put­ter and an an­chored putting style, Bern­hard Langer may be the first name that comes to mind. Af­ter years of strug­gling with the yips, Langer be­came a good put­ter by an­chor­ing his broom­stick to his ster­num, and he won — and won, and won some more — on the Cham­pi­ons Tour. But then golf’s gov­ern­ing bod­ies, the USGA and R&A, banned an­chor­ing the put­ter, or any other golf club, against one’s body. That ban went into e•ect on Jan­uary 1st 2016.

“And how did Langer han­dle that ban? He moved the grip­end of his put­ter ever so slightly away from his chest, and kept right on win­ning. From a dis­tance, it’s di›cult to tell any di•er­ence at all in Langer’s post­ban putting style, and that has caused con­sid­er­able con­tro­versy. And to­day, Langer keeps rolling on, us­ing what to some ap­pears to be an an­chored stroke.

“But isn’t Langer still an­chor­ing his long put­ter? No, he’s not – even if it ap­pears from dis­tance that he is. Here is Langer’s post­Rule 14­1b putting rou­tine with his long put­ter: • He an­chors the put­ter dur­ing his prac­tice strokes be­fore step­ping over the ball. • Once he steps over the ball, he moves his top hand — the one hold­ing the butt end of his long put­ter — slightly away from his chest. • That’s it. Get­ting the top hand off his chest — even slightly and even if the fabric of his shirt

fall­ing away from his body just a smidge makes it ap­pear from a dis­tance that Langer’s hand is an­chored — sat­is­fies the re­quire­ments of Rule 14-1b.”

It sounds even more con­vinc­ing but the sem­blance of an­chor­ing re­mains. It was now time to con­tact some­one who is closer to the rules and ac­tion than most – en­ter into the ar­gu­ment Euro­pean Tour Chief Ref­eree, John Paramor.

Paramor would no doubt have been sought out by some or all of those bod­ies, Langer men­tioned, who gave him the all clear – and most es­pe­cially the R&A.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the en­tire rule gov­ern­ing the ‘An­chor­ing Stroke’ namely ‘Rule 14-1b’ is about test­ing the in­tegrity of the player. There is no prac­ti­cal way that we can test whether a player is an­chor­ing or not,” Paramour said.

His use of the words ‘un­for­tu­nately’; ‘in­tegrity’ and ‘test’ seem to tie in with Brandel Cham­blee’s ‘in­tent’ and ‘get-out-of-jail card’. But with spe­cific re­gard to Langer, how did/would Paramor test his in­tegrity?

“If we be­lieve that the club is close to be­ing an­chored, then we will ask him. If he says he is not, then he is not,” Paramor added.

Feel­ing a bit stuck in ‘no-man’s land’ and no real an­swer to this, there was just one fi­nal ques­tion for Paramor – why did this all kick o” and why was it Bern­hard Langer of all peo­ple. Af­ter all, so many other big name golfers use the long put­ter.

“As I said, there is no prac­ti­cal way of prov­ing an­chor­ing. So when this hap­pens and there is no proof, sadly it opens the door for some peo­ple to make all sorts of ac­cu­sa­tions. I put it down to jeal­ousy,” Paramor said.

And then, with one fi­nal swing of his unan­chored club, Langer cracked the whole nut wide open. He sank the sub­ject as if sink­ing yet an­other ti­tle-win­ning putt when, sim­i­lar to the last lines of a cham­pi­onship win­ning speech, he said ...

“I am a man of in­tegrity and we are play­ing a game of in­tegrity. I could not live with my­self know­ing that I am break­ing the rules.”

And therein folks lies the truth, the whole truth and noth­ing but the truth of this mat­ter. Yep, ‘BINGO!’ and a very ob­vi­ous and glar­ing truth missed by most of us in this saga. It is some­thing that is in ev­ery golfer’s DNA.

From you and me, to fun golfers; so­ci­ety golfers; club golfers, ama­teurs and right up to pro­fes­sion­als. The vast ma­jor­ity of us play this gen­tle­man’s game in a spirit of hon­esty and in­tegrity. It is what the game lives and swears by.

‘In­tegrity’… and, to re­peat Paramor’s very words on ‘test­ing the in­tegrity of the player’ – in this case Bern­hard Langer – if he says he is not, he is not! JUSTIN DOYLE is one of En­cy­clopae­dia Bri­tan­nica’s golf ex­perts. He is also the au­thor of seven books in­clud­ing two bi­ogra­phies about Rory McIl­roy and an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy with the late Ire­land and Euro­pean Ry­der Cup hero, Christy O’Con­nor Ju­nior.

The spot­light has been on Bern­hard Langer’s putting ac­tion for some time.

Langer poses with the Se­nior British Open tro­phy along­side his fam­ily.

Euro­pean Tour Chief Ref­eree John Paramour says there is no prob­lem with Langer’s putting ac­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.