JOHN HUGGAN

Why the an­chor­ing de­bate around Bern­hard Langer is easy to po­lice, easy to un­der­stand and easy to fix.

Golf World (UK) - - Contents - John fol­lows the PGA and Euro­pean Tours and has writ­ten for Golf World for more than 26 years, as well as au­thor­ing seven books.

While Bern­hard Langer’s dom­i­na­tion of the se­niors game is to be ap­plauded, his putting stroke de­serves scru­tiny and con­dem­na­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the Bible (Ge­n­e­sis 1:3 to be pre­cise), it was the Good Lord who long ago an­nounced there should be light. And now, the time has come for the R&A and the USGA to fol­low suit (Rule 14:1b to be pre­cise). We’re talk­ing an­chor­ing and the lam­en­ta­ble non­sense golf’s rul­ing bod­ies have cre­ated in the wake of what has to be one of the most cow­ardly pieces of leg­is­la­tion the game has ever seen.

Ex­hibit A is Bern­hard Langer. Long the dom­i­nant fig­ure on Amer­ica’s Cham­pi­ons Tour, Langer is the most high-pro­file ex­am­ple of a player tak­ing what many feel is un­fair ad­van­tage of a rule badly in need of re-writ­ing.

Have a look at the putting method cur­rently em­ployed by the two-time Masters win­ner. Now fast-back­ward to the stroke he af­fected prior to the in­tro­duc­tion of the new rule. They are all but iden­ti­cal.

The key part of this equa­tion is the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Langer’s club, left hand and fore­arm. Be­fore the change to 14:1b, the Ger­man an­chored his left hand against his chest when hold­ing his broom-han­dle put­ter (don’t get me started on those, by the way). Now, while Langer ad­dresses putts with said hand slightly off his chest, as of­ten as not it – or his fore­arm – at least brushes against his shirt dur­ing what is sup­posed to be a putting stroke (don’t get me started on that, by the way).

All of which is ap­par­ently le­gal, as long as there is no “in­tent” on the part of the player to an­chor the club while the head is mov­ing to and fro. And it is there that the R&A and USGA have dis­played their spine­less­ness. In­stead of clearly iden­ti­fy­ing black and white, wrong and right, the blue blaz­ers (maybe they should switch to yel­low) opted out and painted ev­ery­thing grey. In other words, while they were ap­par­ently happy enough to write the new rule, the R&A and USGA have shame­fully ab­di­cated any re­spon­si­bil­ity when it comes to its in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

The loop­hole iden­ti­fied by Langer – and fel­low se­nior Scott McCar­ron – is as wide as the Grand Canyon. All they have to do is claim their ‘strokes’ are made with no de­lib­er­ate in­tent to breach the spirit of the new reg­u­la­tion. So they can ‘an­chor away’ with im­punity and without penalty.

The so­lu­tion is sim­ple. All the rule mak­ers have to do is de­clare an ob­vi­ous im­per­a­tive – a clearly iden­ti­fi­able gap be­tween the butt end of the put­ter and the player’s body from ad­dress to the end of the fol­low through. Let there be light. That is easy to po­lice, easy to un­der­stand and easy to fix.

Per­haps the most de­press­ing as­pect of this un­nec­es­sary con­tro­versy is how badly it re­flects on Langer. The 59-year old has long been one of the mostre­spected fig­ures in golf. A de­vout Chris­tian, there is much to ad­mire in the way he has lived his life. His peer­less abil­ity to come back from mul­ti­ple doses of the dreaded putting yips is one of golf’s most en­dur­ing tales. Like­wise his longevity as a player. Mostly through strength of mind, Langer has out­lasted his most fa­mous di­rect con­tem­po­raries – Seve Balles­teros, Sir Nick Faldo, Ian Woos­nam and Sandy Lyle – his 32 wins (and count­ing) on the Cham­pi­ons Tour a fine achieve­ment on top of his 42 Euro­pean Tour ti­tles.

Sadly, how­ever, Langer is on re­cent record as say­ing that, not only does he have no in­tent to an­chor, he is not ac­tu­ally an­chor­ing. While that first claim is in­dis­putable, the sec­ond is any­thing but. All of which only adds to the dis­ap­point­ment felt by so many.

In­deed, the strangest part of this whole af­fair is that Langer is so ob­vi­ously risk­ing his well-earned rep­u­ta­tion. Hav­ing lis­tened to the le­git­i­mate con­cerns of his peers and the pub­lic, it is odd that he has not taken steps to al­le­vi­ate any doubt as to the le­gal­ity of his lat­est putting tech­nique. To­wards the end of a ca­reer pre­vi­ously be­yond re­proach, his at­ti­tude is puz­zling and, un­usu­ally for him, ar­ro­gant. Such a pity.

‘The strangest part of this whole af­fair is that Langer is so ob­vi­ously risk­ing his well-earned rep­u­ta­tion’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.