By Steve Elling
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Add Tiger Woods to the list of players who believe that the belly putter should fast go belly-up.
In fact, the former world No. 1 said Tuesday that he has been agitating for years with one of the game's global rulemakers, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, on the possible language relating to how a rule regarding maximum putter length would be worded.
At the seaside Pebble Beach Golf Links, Woods said he's been preaching anchors aweigh to the broom and belly models for years. The former world No. 1 said he's conversed with the R&A's chief executive, Peter Dawson, about perhaps capping the length so that putters would be the same length as a sand wedge.
The USGA indicated over the weekend at its annual meeting that it, along with the R&A, was revisiting the topic of whether belly putter and long putters, which have become so popular it's hard to track whose using them on tour, should be reigned in.
"I've never been a fan if it," Woods said at Pebble Beach. "I believe it's the art of controlling the body and club and swinging the pendulum motion. I believe that's how it should be played. I'm traditionalist when it comes to that."
Purity has been taking a beating on the putting greens of late. The rulemakers years ago capped the maximum length of a driver at 48 inches, but the belly and broom models have been around so long, it's unofficially been sanctioned as a ship that has too long ago sailed.
The belly model became so popular last year, players were schooling their peers on the clubs' nuances on putting greens toward the end of the season. Keegan Bradley, the reigning rookie of the year, became the first player to win a major using the belly model.
Even Phil Mickelson tried one. Many players philosophically object to using putters that are anchored to the body in any fashion, as the broom and belly putter are, in some fashion. Others, like Ernie Els and Mickelson, say that as long as it's not against the rules, they'll try almost anything.
"I've talked to Peter about this, Peter Dawson, for a number of years and gone back and forth of how we could word it," Woods said. "My idea was to have it so that the putter would be equal to or less than the shortest club in your bag. I think with that we'd be able to get away from any type of belly anchoring.
"You can still anchor the putter like Bernhard Langer did, against the arm. But that's still the art of swinging the club, too, at the same time."
It might be tempting to blow off Woods' remarks, but when he speaks, things tend to happen. By way of example, when Woods said he was in favor of drug testing, the PGA Tour stopped dragging its feet and implemented a new screening system within months. He asked for a shorter season in 2005, and got it when the FedEx Cup series was adopted soon thereafter.
"I think you can get away from the belly or the long putter by that type of wording, whether or not they do it or not," Woods said. "Peter's looked into it for a number of years, trying to get it to work, and you [would] actually measure everybody's sand wedge and putter before you go out and play."
On the Pebble putting green, as his peers learned that Woods had thrown his weight behind a possible rule change, those who use the long sticks cringed.
"Great," said Robert Garrigus, who switched to a belly model this year and nearly won an event last month. "That means it'll probably happen."
When it was pointed out that it can take months or years for rule changes to be implemented, Brendan Steele was left hoping for a different ourcome.
"I've heard that they might grandfather-in all the guys who are already using them," said Steele, who uses a belly model and won last year as a rookie. "I'd be super-stoked if they let me use it and told everybody else that they couldn't."