Five players eyeing belly putter ruling

Webb Simpson would like for the USGA and R&A to prove that anchoring a belly putter leads to a competitive advantage. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the USGA and R&A will issue their final action on anchoring in putting, which they first proposed to ban this past November.

If the game's leading ruling bodies go through with the ban, set to commence in 2016, several top players currently using the controversial method will be forced to make changes to how they make putts in the prime of their careers.

There are five prominent anchorers, including three who have won recent majors with the technique, who stick out as the most vulnerable to the ban.

A decade from now, all of them might look back on their careers in two distinct periods: before the ban and after. The good thing for these players is that, even if the ban is enacted, they still will be able to use their long putters, except now the butt end will have to move freely away from their bodies.

1. Keegan Bradley

As the first player to win a major championship using the anchoring method -- he won the 2011 PGA Championship in his rookie year -- the 26-year-old former St. John's star has been the poster child for the issue.

The Woodstock, Vt., native has been a very vocal leader of the anti-ban contingent that successfully lobbied the PGA Tour to go against it.

In February, Bradley said he resented being called a cheater by fans.

He has much to lose with the ban. His name -- and his biggest victory -- is synonymous with his belly putter. With three wins, he is one of the best young American players. On Sunday, he got his sixth top-10 of the season with a second-place finish at the Byron Nelson.

How will he adjust mentally to swinging a putter away from his body? Will he still continue on the upward trajectory in his promising young career? If he struggles to win after the implementation of the ban, will it creep into his head that he can't win without his old putter?

2. Webb Simpson

The reigning U.S. Open champion has played the role of defense lawyer in the anti-ban camp. The 27-year-old former Wake Forest standout wants the governing bodies to prove that anchoring gives players an advantage before they enact a ban.

"To me, to change something that big and cost manufacturers millions of dollars, you've got to have some pretty good facts," Simpson said last year at the PGA Championship. "I think just because some of us are winning majors or winning tournaments with the belly putter, I don't think that's a good reason to say, 'Hey, we're going to take them away.'"

But don't look for this polite young man to do much complaining once the verdict comes down. He will fall in line and make the best of it with a conventional putter.

3. Tim Clark

The 37-year-old South African has been using the anchoring technique for 15 years, his entire professional career, which has included three wins on the European Tour plus the 2010 Players Championship. As one of the longest-serving anchorers of this vocal group of players, Clark probably could have the most difficult period of adjustment to a more conventional method. He has a congenital issue with his forearms that makes the use of a short putter very uncomfortable for him, so he would most likely keep a long putter and take the butt end of it off his body.

During the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January, Clark gave an impassioned speech that helped to sway the views of many of the players and executives around the tour. If the ban goes forward, as expected, Clark will be an interesting player to watch once the rule is implemented in 2016.

4. Adam Scott

The Australian's win at the Masters with an anchored putter only added fuel to the controversy. But unlike Bradley, Simpson and Clark, Scott has had success on tour with a conventional putter. He went to the long putter in early 2011 after ranking 186th on tour in the "strokes gained putting" category.

Scott has always had a beautiful golf swing, and, now that he has a deft putting touch -- particularly on the short putts -- he's a real contender in the major championships.

At 32, he has a legitimate shot at winning several more major championships before his best years are over. Yet it's likely that he will have to go back to his old putter or some modified technique to do it.

5. Carl Pettersson

The 35-year-old Swede-turned-North Carolinian hasn't ruled out legal action if a ban goes into effect in 2016. The 2012 winner of the Heritage Classic at Hilton Head, S.C., has called the proposed rule to ban anchoring a "witch hunt," simply a response to the recent success of anchorers in the majors.

The former NC State star said that, after 16 years with the belly putter, it would put him at a disadvantage to start over with a conventional putter.