Strong speculation in golf circles in Dubai over the weekend suggested the decision has finally been made to prohibit players from using the controversial putting tools, after months of talks between the ruling bodies on either side of the Atlantic. The authorities have focussed their efforts on the "anchoring" of the putter to parts of the body, rather than simply club length, as the potential means of outlawing long putters.
All that remains to be seen is the timescale set for the ban, and whether both amateur and professional players are offered a phase-out period before the putters can no longer be used. If golf's major tours swiftly adopt the ruling, professionals could be stopped from playing with long putters from the start of 2013. The date widely reported for amateur outlawing of the club is 2016.
The move is guaranteed to cause controversy given the number of top-level players who have adopted a long putter. Ernie Els won this year's Open Championship with one, the third such major champion in the last year.
George O'Grady, the chief executive of the European Tour, confirmed his body would accept whatever is decided by the R&A. "I would urge the Tour to follow the rules as laid down by the governing bodies," he said. "There's been a lot of discussion throughout the year with the USGA, the R&A and the PGA Tour. I think the rules-making bodies have to do what they think is right for the game, and the view of our leading members and our players must be listened to. But I haven't heard one of our members want to break away at the moment. They want to be connected to the game."
When asked about the issue in July, the R&A's chief executive, Peter Dawson, said: "Anchoring is what we're looking at – method of stroke – and it's all about putting around a fixed pivot point, whether that is in your belly or under your chin or on your chest.
"It has dramatically increased and we're also seeing now people who can putt perfectly well in the conventional way thinking that an anchored stroke gives them an advantage. I think that's the fundamental change that we've witnessed in the last couple of years.
"The objections I find from those at elite level are, 'If people have become failed putters in the conventional way, why should they have a crutch to come back and compete against me when I haven't failed in the conventional way?'"
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image: © Ed McDonald