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PGA Tour Confidential: More fallout from belly ban, McDowell wins World Challenge

Keegan Bradley, World Challenge
Charles Baus / Landov
Keegan Bradley finished second at the World Challenge despite getting heckled for using a belly putter.

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

HECKLING KEEGAN
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: The World Challenge featured an elite field that included two of golf's most accomplished belly-putters in action for the first time since the USGA announced the proposed anchoring ban. Both Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson continued to stick their putters in their guts, and a fan heckled Bradley, calling him a "cheater." The USGA released a statement Sunday condemning the heckling and emphasizing that the new rule doesn't take effect until 2016, but it looks like the governing bodies may have a mess here. How would you solve it?

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Stay quiet. The more they acknowledge these actions, the more they call attention to them.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Agree with Mark, no reason to engage with hecklers. Now I'm waiting for the USGA to weigh in on the "Mashed Potatoes!" guy.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: Seriously, they needed to weigh in after one guy heckled a player? This is the biggest moment in heckling history!

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I was stunned to get a press release on it. If this is how it works, Monty needs to back-order 247 press releases.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: The PGA Tour should not wait three years to outlaw anchoring. Do it ASAP. That way Tour players won't become targets for abuse.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I agree with Jim. The Tour should adopt the new rule right after the FedEx Cup next year, when the 2014 season begins.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: Even though I disagree with the ruling, I think the PGA Tour needs to enact it ASAP. Rule 14-1b will unavoidably cast a shadow on the guys who are still anchoring. The USGA may condemn the heckler, but what did they expect to happen when they've essentially told the world that anchoring is cheating, even if it's not on the books quite yet?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It's simple: make the ban effective Jan. 1, 2013. Adapt or perish.

Van Sickle: I'd rescind the ban, but that's not going to happen. The three-year waiting period, while awkward, is necessary to give golfers worldwide a chance to wean themselves from anchored putting, which some of them invested 10 or 20 years in.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: I would also repeal the ban, but that's hopeless. I think the PGA Tour should seriously consider creating its own set of rules, 99% of which would be identical to the USGA's Rules of Golf, but with special conditions to govern the game at the elite level. That would go a long way toward resolving a bunch of issues.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Put the rule into effect starting Jan. 1, 2014. If the USGA thought this kind of thing wasn't going to happen, they were being naive. You could see it coming from a mile away. It puts players in a weird place, especially if somebody wins another major with an anchored stroke. The c-word could get tossed around.

Godich: Here's the other issue. If the PGA Tour season is in fact going to start in the fall, does that mean the rule is going to be changed in mid-season?

Van Sickle: Technically, yes, it's a mid-season change.

Dusek: Wonderful. Mr. Finchem, would you like cheese to go with that can of worms?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: How would you solve the issue of fans' backlash against pros who use a belly putter?

TAINTED VICTORIES?
Ritter: Will anyone here view the championships won by Bradley, Simpson and Els – and any more won by anchored putters before 2016 – as tainted?

Herre: Not me. They didn't break any rules.

Bamberger: No they won square and fair.

Shipnuck: Nah, it's not cheating. But it is a little fishy.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: Not me. And unlike performance-enhancing drugs in other sports, I don't think that anchored putting casts a shadow on this era in golf. These guys didn't win because they had broomsticks or belly putters. They were simply better than their opponents.

Van Sickle: The die-hard traditionalists, like the fan who heckled Bradley, might. In 10 years, nobody is going to remember that Ernie Els won the Open with a belly putter; they'll just remember that he won another Open. Asterisks will undoubtedly be suggested, but they will not be applied.

Dusek: Of course not, but there are some golfers who probably think that every win since the switch away from feathery balls, hickory shafts and cast-iron heads reeks with the stench of technological evolution.

Wei: It was legal, and it's unfortunate that we're even discussing the potential for an asterisk next to their majors.

Reiterman: Nah, they're not tainted. But if I were Keegan or Webb, I'd be making the switch soon. The general public probably isn't as forgiving.

Dusek: To hell with that. If I were Keegan or Webb, I would practice with a traditional-length putter but use my belly putter in tournaments until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2015. There is too much money to be won over the next three years not to.

Hanger: I won't view the wins as tainted, but some of those who think anchoring is cheating surely will. That's part of the problem with the ruling. It will also cause some purists to pencil in asterisks next to anchorers' victories between now and Jan. 1, 2016.

Godich: If the rules allow it, then the wins are legit. Is it really any different from the player who takes advantage of the rules on a free drop or another fair exploitation of the rules?

Van Sickle: Does anybody think all those wins by players using square grooves in the '80s or early '90s are suspect? Nah. Nobody cares.

Hanger: But this is different. It's not a piece of equipment that everybody was using. It's a method that's now been deemed, basically, to be outside the norms of the game. Again, I disagree with this stance, but those who think anchoring is cheating will absolutely remember those three majors differently from the rest.

Reiterman: And let's not forget, every time a player is in contention with an anchored putting stroke, TV announcers are going to keep reminding the public about the ban. Cannot wait for three years of "Now, remember, the anchored putting stroke was outlawed by the USGA and the R&A, but the rule doesn't go into effect until 2016."

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