USGA, Langer, McCarron sound off on anchoring controversy

Amid the public tempest of disapproval for their not-technically-anchored-but-anchored putting strokes, Bernhard Langer and Scott McCarron are defending themselves publicly—and so is the USGA.

While the latter defense may seem odd at first blush, the authors of golf’s official rule book have much riding on the public perception of efforts to push rule 14-1b to its limit.

Friday, Langer, McCarron, and the USGA banded together for a joint statement about the legality of the duo’s putting methods.

“I’m certain that I am not anchoring the putter and that my putting stroke is not violating the Rules of Golf,” Langer said in the statement. “On several occasions, I have been in contact with the USGA and rules officials on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions, and each time I have been assured that my putting stroke is within the Rules of Golf.”

Not surprisingly, McCarron was of the same mind.

“I’d like to emphatically say that I do not anchor my hand, arm or club against my body during my putting stroke. I have worked with the USGA and PGA Tour Champions rules officials to ensure that I am within the Rules of Golf, and I have extended many invitations to demonstrate and teach people how to use a long putter without anchoring. I have never competed dishonestly because I have the utmost respect for the game of golf, and I will continue to represent myself and the sport to the best of my ability.”

Ho, ho! Not only does he not anchor, but he teaches people how to push the rule to its absolute extreme.

The USGA, in order to prop up the lunacy that is Rule 14-1b, had no choice but to defend Langer and McCarron.

“We are confident that Rule [14-1b] has been applied fairly and consistently and have seen no evidence of a player breaching the Rule, which does not prohibit a hand or club to touch a player’s clothing in making a stroke,” the organization said in the statement. “Integrity is at the heart of the Rules and how the game is played worldwide, and this essential value has made the game enjoyable for all golfers.”

The USGA made the bed and this duo of golfers is happily lying in it. They’re not breaking the law, folks. Nothing to see here, let’s move on.

Not so fast. We’ll use the language of law to frame things in a way the eggheads at the USGA will understand. In the world of actual law, the law is seen as a floor, rather than a ceiling. Philosophy, religion, those sorts of things are the plaster of the ceiling of moral action.

For instance, you’re under no legal obligation to stop someone from committing a murder, or even to report a murder if it happens right in front of you. However, morally, you probably ought to.

What’s riling people like Brandel Chamblee up about this debate is the idea that USGA has missed the mark in its floor building (Rule 14-1b). Thus, Langer, McCarron, etc. ought to hold themselves to a higher standard and realize using long putters in the fashion they do, whether technically a violation of Rule 14-1b or not, is an affront to the spirit of the game.

But of course, at the end of the end, this all comes back to an individual’s own standards for his or her conduct. If you believe simply by not breaking the law, you’ve acted ethically/morally/appropriately, then Langer and McCarron are in the clear. If you believe human beings are held to higher standards than mere obedience of the law, well, then you’re probably a member of the same chorus as Brandel Chamblee.