Arnold Palmer states case for putter rules

Arnold Palmer strongly stated his case Wednesday that golf

doesn’t need a ”contraption” like the anchored putting stroke and

the sport’s success requires everyone to play by the same

rules.

In a wide-ranging press conference at Bay Hill, Palmer said he

supported the proposed rule that would outlaw attaching the club

against the body, which is the method used for long putters and

belly putters.

”That’s not part of the game of golf. To attach it to your body

in any way is taking a little bit away from the game,” Palmer

said. ”I’m not going to argue with anybody about it. I’ve stated

my position, and that is we do not need a contraption to play the

game of golf.

”I would hope that we’d play under one set of rules, and those

rules would include a ban on the long putter hooked to the body in

some way, shape or form.”

The U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club

proposed a new rule to ban such a stroke. The PGA Tour and PGA of

America have said they oppose the ban, with PGA Tour commissioner

Tim Finchem saying there is no data to prove there is a competitive

advantage to using the anchored stroke.

Finchem has said he could see a place for different rules in

tournament golf and recreational play, though he has suggested the

anchored stroke might not be one of them. PGA of America president

Ted Bishop has been more forceful, saying in a recent blog that

”bifurcation seems destined” if the rule takes effect in

2016.

The USGA and R&A are expected to announce soon whether to

approve the new rule.

The possibility of two sets of rules seemed to agitate Palmer,

who helped golf become popular with the masses a half-century ago

when he won the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open and the British Open.

”I don’t think that golf has a place for two sets of rules,”

Palmer said. ”I think one of the reasons that the game has

progressed in the way that it has over the years is the fact that

the amateurs and the pros all play the same game and they play

under the same set of rules. I feel like that is very, very

important. It may be the key to the future success of the game of

golf, just the fact that there will be one set of rules and we’ll

all play by them.”

Palmer was less serious when it came to Rory McIlroy, who

decided not to play the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Bay Hill has the strongest field of the year so far among

regular PGA Tour events, though it is missing the No. 1 player.

Palmer had jokingly said that he would break Boy Wonder’s arm if he

didn’t play, and then clarified Wednesday it was only a passing

comment.

”I sort of threw a casual fun at him,” Palmer said. ”It was

meant to be funny. I don’t know whether it was or not. I was kind

of kidding when somebody said, `Is he playing?’ And I said, `Well,

if he doesn’t I’m going to break his arm.’ But it was meant in

jest, and it was strictly a passing remark. Frankly, I thought he

was going to play, and I was as surprised as a lot of people when

he decided he was not going to play.”

McIlroy, who made a wholesale switch to Nike in the offseason,

has completed only eight rounds this year. That includes a missed

cut in Abu Dhabi and walking off the course at the Honda Classic at

the turn of his second round. He also lost in the first round of

the Match Play Championship. But after four rounds at Doral – there

is no cut – and a tie for eighth with a closing 65, the 23-year-old

said he would not add a tournament.

He plans to play the Houston Open next week and then go to the

Masters.

”For some reason, I got it in my mind that he would be playing,

but that obviously is wrong,” Palmer said. ”What his reason or

reasoning is, I don’t know. And I’m not going to worry about

it.”

The focus at Bay Hill was on Tiger Woods, who can replace

McIlroy at No. 1 with a victory this week. The number most often

associated with Woods is whether he can reach the record 18 majors

won by Jack Nicklaus.

Palmer said he’s been impressed with what he has seen from Woods

this year, particularly the wins at Torrey Pines and Doral. It

reminds the King of the first time he played golf with Woods during

a practice round at Augusta National.

”I give him a chance to do the record,” Palmer said. ”I

suppose that every year it’s a little more fleeting, however, and

he’ll have to really work hard to keep himself up and keep his

mental attitude if he’s going to do it.”