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