PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Tiger Woods, referring to himself as a "traditionalist," said Tuesday that he is opposed to belly putters or any club anchored against a player’s body.
"I've never been a fan," said an affable and relaxed Woods during his press conference at Pebble Beach. "I believe putting is the art of controlling the body and club and swinging the pendulum motion. I believe that's how the game should be played."
Belly and long putters have become much more popular in the pro ranks, and Keegan Bradley became the first major winner to use one at last year’s PGA Championship. But golf's governing bodies, the USGA and R&A, said last week that they were taking a "fresh look" on implementing an anti-anchoring rule. That was potentially bad news for the growing number of players who owe much of their success to belly or long putters. And now one of golf's most influential voices has added his two cents. Watch out, Bradley and Webb Simpson. You may soon have to relearn how to putt without anchoring the club.
(Read more: The Belly Boom — why belly putters aren't going away, by Gary Van Sickle.)
Woods said he's been speaking with R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson on the subject for years, particularly on drafting the tricky language that could present challenges to enforcing such a rule. Woods said he has gone back and forth with Dawson on how to tackle the wording, and he offered a logical suggestion.
"My idea was to have it so that the putter would be equal to or less than the shortest club in your bag," said Woods, who is making his 2012 PGA Tour debut this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. "And I think with that, we'd be able to get away from any type of belly or long putter.”
It's tough to recall the last time Woods answered a fairly controversial topic with such candor, but it was consistent with his demeanor and tone throughout the 30-plus minute press conference. In a packed room overflowing with eager reporters and at least a dozen TV cameras, Woods fielded questions and gave more thoughtful answers than usual. He laughed and cracked a few jokes, including one about the caliber of some of the athletes emerging in golf.
"What happens when you get one of those truly superior athletes that come out here and decides to play golf and devote himself and has the mental acuity to play?" Woods said. "I'll be shrimping it down the fairway and trying to do it a different way. I'll be the Corey Pavin of that generation."
Woods, playing in this event for the first time in 10 years, seemed genuinely happy and emanated an almost Zen-like aura.
"I feel very at peace," he said when asked whether he felt more pressure because he hasn't snagged a victory in a full-field event in more than two years. "I had to make some changes and that took time, and I'm starting to see the results of that now, which is great. My last four events I've really played well. So I'm just building on that. Everything's headed in the right direction."
So is his frame of mind, seemingly. He's enjoying the game more than ever before.
"I think it's more fun now than it used to be because now my kids are getting at an age where they want to see daddy on TV," he said. "''Daddy, you're going to a golf tournament, are you going to be on TV?' And I said, 'Well, I have to play well.' 'Well, daddy, can you please play well?'
"I get more satisfaction out of that part of my life now, so golf is more enjoyable than it used to be."
Woods will play with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo in the pro-am format, in which each two-man team will play Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterrey Peninsula Country Club. After 54 holes, the cut is made and the pros and the top amateur teams will advance to the final round on Sunday at Pebble Beach.
Woods said he's looking forward to playing with Romo, who can hold his own on the links and has made it past U.S. Open local qualifying. One challenge the pair might face is that Romo is too good. He plays to a plus-three handicap, which means the team might start the round with a three-shot deficit in the net division.
"Romo's playing from the up tees this week, which will be fun," said Woods, smiling. "That will be good for us. You guys probably don't know this, but they want to give him a plus-three handicap, which is complete B.S. I mean, he's a scratch. I play scratch every tournament, I'm a scratch.
"He's competitive and he's been grinding hard. It's been cool to see. He's been calling me quite a bit, sending me video of his golf swing, 'What can I do, what can I do?'"
Watch for Romo and Woods to push each other this week. They may not have a shot at the team competition because Romo's handicap is too low, but don't be surprised if Woods breaks his winless drought on the PGA Tour.