Legal challenge over putter ban of little concern to golf bosses

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Any threat of legal action will not stop golf’s governing bodies introducing a ban on anchored putters in 2016.

That was the message from Mike Davis, executive director of the United States Golf Association yesterday.

“We understand there are going to be players unhappy about this,” he said.

“We need to do what we think is right and shame on us if we are scared of litigation in doing the right thing.”

A proposed rule change has been announced by the USGA and Royal and Ancient Club, but the final decision will not be taken until next spring so that the two organisations can “consider any further comments and suggestions from throughout the golf community”.

From 2016, three of golf’s last five major champions – Ernie Els, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson – would not be able to continue putting as they do under the proposal.

They could still put their current putters in the bag, but anchoring them to the belly, chest or chin would be outlawed – with a two-shot penalty in strokeplay or loss of hole in matchplay.

Australian Adam Scott, whose career was reignited by a switch to a long putter, is among those who have questioned the need for change, while earlier this month Phil Mickelson said: “I don’t think you can take away what you’ve allowed players to use, practise and play with for 30 years – I think it is grossly unfair.”

But Tiger Woods countered: “I believe that the art of putting is swinging the club and controlling nerves. Having it as a fixed point is something that’s not in the traditions of the game. We swing all other 13 clubs – I think the putter should be the same.”

Peter Dawson, R&A chief executive, said: “We do take legal advice whenever we are doing something like this, but more to ensure our process is robust rather than for any defensive reason.

“We believe the governing bodies have the authority and we would defend it right up the legal system. Once we are ready to do something we are ready to defend it all the way. We have thought this through from every angle, but there may be something we have not thought about and we are genuinely open to what people may say.

“People should realise that most of the matters discussed have been taken into account.”

Harrogate’s John Parry is on the verge of a return to the European Tour after taking command of qualifying school in Spain.

Notorious for being one of the most exacting, and nerve-jangling tests a golfer can go through, Parry has made a mockery of such a belief by storming into a four-shot lead with one round to play.

He has a cushion of 13 shots over the players currently outside the top 25 who win playing rights on the 2013 European Tour.

Parry added a 66 yesterday to earlier rounds of 71 71 64 67 to move to 17 under par and into pole position.

“Today I’ll just play exactly the same,” said the 26-year-old, who lost his Tour card 12 months ago.

“Now I just want to win it but obviously you only really want your card so it’s a strange tournament. I have a lot less pressure now because for me to not get a card from this position would be horrific, so I almost feel my card is in the bag.

“I am playing well so I’m pretty relaxed for tomorrow.”