By Mark Lamport-Stokes
THOUSAND OAKS, California (Reuters) - Wednesday's proposal by golf's rulemakers for a ban on long putters being anchored to the body was mainly welcomed by players at this week's World Challenge, though some expressed disappointment.
In a bid to preserve the "skill and challenge" of putting, the Royal and Ancient (R&A) and United States Golf Association (USGA) said they wanted to outlaw the practice of anchoring by 2016.
While three of the last five major champions have used long 'belly' putters, the move by the game's rulemakers has been prompted mainly by the number of younger players now taking advantage of anchoring.
"I think it's in the best nature of the game," American Matt Kuchar, who uses a mid-length putter, told Reuters while preparing for Thursday's opening round at Sherwood Country Club.
"The game was not intended to be played that way (anchoring the putter). The game was intended to be played in a way that you control both ends of the club with every shot."
Intriguingly, Kuchar uses a putting stroke which would not be outlawed by the rulemakers' proposal since his putter rests against his left arm and not against his chest, stomach or chin.
The proposed Rule 14-1b states, in part: "The club is anchored 'directly' when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm."
American Keegan Bradley, the first player to win a major using the anchoring technique when he triumphed at the 2011 PGA Championship, was among those unhappy about the likely change.
"In the next couple of years, I'm really going to have to figure out a way that's best for me to putt," he told Reuters. "I'm obviously not happy with the ruling, but I respect the USGA.
"They make the rules, and I'll adjust appropriately. I'm going to accept the challenge and hopefully do well when they do ban it."
Former world number one and 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples expressed some dissatisfaction with the proposal, along with confusion over the precise definition of anchoring.
"I do use a belly putter and when I started I used it for my back," American Couples, who has limited his playing schedule in recent seasons due to lingering back injuries, told Reuters.
"I push back into my belly and lean over to a certain point. Now will it (the putter) touch my belly once in a while? Yeah, but it's not really anchored so I don't really know if that is affected by the rule.
"So far they (rulemakers) haven't screwed up the game of golf, and I don't think this will screw it up. But I feel bad for a lot of the younger players who have never done it (putt) any other way."
Australian Jason Day, who uses a conventional 'short' putter, preferred to hedge his bets.
"I'm right down on the middle on this," he told Reuters with a smile. "I don't want to make anyone angry.
"I'm just going to leave it to them (the rulemakers) to make a decision, which they have, but I know there's a lot of guys that are going to be angry about it. That's how it goes."
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, applauded the move by the R&A and the USGA.
"It was the only decision that could be made, and no one is really all that surprised," he told reporters after taking part in Wednesday's pro-am competition.
"It's a very considered and intelligent sort of decision, I think, from the R&A and the USGA. It's the right call. This is an 'integrity of the putting stroke' issue.
"Anchoring has become a way of putting, teaching pros are putting long putters into the hands of kids, and I think that the putting stroke is kind of moving in a wrong direction sort of for the future, really."
The proposal by the R&A and USGA will be discussed by players and the golfing community before being implemented.
(Editing by Ian Ransom)