Pettersson: Golf on 'witch hunt' of long putters


Pettersson: Golf on 'witch hunt' of long putters

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) Carl Pettersson says the proposed rule to ban the anchored stroke for long putters feels like a ``witch hunt,'' and that golf's governing bodies were only reacting to three of the last five major champions using a belly putter.

``It seems silly to ban something that's been around for 40 years,'' Pettersson said in his first comments since the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club announced plans Nov. 28 to outlaw anchored strokes. ``It's unfortunate. I feel like I'm 16 years behind because I haven't putted with anything else for 16 years.''

Pettersson, who qualified for the Tournament of Champions by winning at Hilton Head, began using a broom-handle putter that he anchors to his chest between his sophomore and junior year at North Carolina State.

Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship), Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (British Open) used a belly putter to win their majors.

Two more months of comment period remain before the rule becomes official, and then it does not take effect until the next Rules of Golf is published Jan. 1, 2016.

Even as the long putters were getting more attention, Pettersson made one of the most compelling cases to keep them. It is the only putting stroke he has used during his 10 years on the PGA Tour.

Pettersson long has argued that he has spent thousands of hours practicing the stroke, which did not come naturally to him, and that to start over would put him at an unfair disadvantage. He was said to be among those who might consider a lawsuit if the rule is adopted, though the easygoing Swede said he would see how this year unfolded.

``I don't know,'' he said when asked if he would challenge the rule. ``I haven't made up my mind yet. I'm just going to sit back and see what happens.''

In the meantime, he has no plans to change putters.

Simpson said he had been practicing on occasion with a short putter in case of a ban, and Bradley had some fun at the World Challenge last month when he grabbed a short putter on the practice green at Sherwood and made a 20-foot putt.

Both showed up at Kapalua with their belly putters.

``I'm not going to change,'' Bradley said. ``I'm not even thinking about it, to be honest. I'm going to wait for the rule to pass first, and then I'll think about what to do.''

Pettersson said he tinkered with a few grips during his month at home in North Carolina, though not to the point that he practiced on a real green. He also said he was not surprised by the decision, saying it became clear in the last few months that the USGA and R&A were leaning toward a ban.

``It feels a bit like a witch hunt to me,'' Pettersson said. ``It was a pure reaction to Keegan and Ernie and Webb. They keep harping on the younger generation using them, but I think they're going to ban it because it looks bad. But you have strong arguments from other players, too.''

Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker and Graeme McDowell are on a long list of players who use conventional putters and believe an anchored stroke should go away, saying it takes the skill out of putting because the top part of the club is anchored to the body.

What concerned golf's top officials is that players no longer were using an anchored stroke out of desperation to improve their putting, but as a way to putt better.

``There's no argument that it's a better way to putt because then everybody would be using it,'' Pettersson said. ``If it was easy, everybody on the PGA Tour would be using it. So I don't know where they got that from. It's just a different way of putting.''

The PGA Tour can set its own rules, and there has been speculation that when the rule passes, the tour would adopt it before 2016 to avoid the long putters getting too much attention over the next few years.

Bradley said a fan called him a cheater at the World Challenge, which prompted a statement from the USGA that reminded fans the putting stroke remains legal.

A spokesman said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem would not comment until a players' meeting in two weeks at Torrey Pines. Pettersson won't be at the meeting because he does not plan to play the Farmers Insurance Open.

``There's so much speculation. I just wish people would say what's going on,'' Bradley said. ``From what I've heard, the rule is not going in for three years. I haven't heard what the tour is going to do. I know it's a touchy subjection. I would prefer for it to go three years so we aren't rushed into it. I think that would be the fair way to do it.''

Pettersson said he was surprised not to have heard from Finchem, and that his hope was that golf officials weren't talking only to those opposed to long putters. He did say, however, that USGA executive director Mike Davis tried to call him a few weeks ago.

``I didn't know it was him, so it went right to my voicemail,'' Pettersson said.

Did he call him back?

``No,'' Pettersson said. ``I just didn't want to talk about it. And there's nothing I could do.''

Davis said he has tried to call a number of players who use long putters before and after the announcement of the proposed rule.

``I've just reached out and said, `If you want to talk about it, I'm happy to, but don't feel you need to call back,''' Davis said. ``We realize there are two sides - many sides - to this issue and we just wanted to reach out. It's not so much to try to convince them of our point of view, it was more listening to theirs.''

Davis said with two months remaining in the comment period, ``It has gotten extremely quiet.''

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Caps prospect watch: Signing season?


Caps prospect watch: Signing season?

The 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket has been announced and only one Capitals prospect, Brian Pinho, is still in the running.

Providence College was selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will play No. 3 Clarkson in the first round on Friday, March 23 on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of Notre Dame-Michigan Tech on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.

The college season is over for the rest of the Capitals' college prospects which begs the question, will any of them sign an entry-level deal with Washington?

In the spring when seasons end for colleges, junior leagues and European leagues, we see a flurry of signings across the NHL as teams sign their prospects and young free agents.

Among the Caps' college prospects, the most likely candidate to sign would be Shane Gersich. Gersich just wrapped up this third season at the University of North Dakota, finishing second on the team in goals (13) and tied for third in points (29). The Capitals will certainly make a push to sign him considering his talent and because if he returns to college for a fourth year, he stands to become a free agent on Aug. 15, 2019.

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Wednesday that North Dakota was still awaiting Gersich's decision on whether he planned to return to college.

Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie is in a similar situation, but it he has decided to head back to school for another season.

“That wasn’t a season I’d want to leave on,” Priskie told the New Haven Register. “When I came here as a freshman I saw our senior class, Garteig, St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon, and they left such a legacy that guys still talk about them. Same for Sam Anas and Devon Toews. They were all such great players and some of the best people for our program. When I leave, I want to be talked about like they are.”


Other prospect notes:

  • For Pinho, now a senior at Providence, this marks an opportunity for him to finish his college career the same way he began, with a national championship. “I don’t think I realized at the time how hard it is just to get back to the tournament,” Pinho told the New Haven Register. “So that’s something we older guys have been telling the younger guys. You never know when you’re going to be back and you have to make the most of it when you’re there.” (You can read the full feature on Pinho here)
  • The end of the season may suddenly be near for goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov. Metallurg Magnitogorsk finds itself down 3-1 in its series with Ak Bars in the KHL playoffs meaning their season could be over as early as Friday. Of course, the big news to watch after that is whether or not Samsonov would come to North America. If he does, he would most likely go to Hershey to play for the Bears. With only 10 games remaining on Hershey's schedule, however, the sooner Samsonov's team is ousted from the playoffs, the better. At least from a Washington perspective.
  • All three of Washington's WHL prospects have reached the WHL playoffs. Moose Jaw (Dmitriy Zaitsev) finished with the best record in the league and will play Prince Albert in the first round. Swift Current (Beck Malenstyn) finished second in the East Division behind Moose Jaw and will play Regina. Everett (Garrett Pilon) won the U.S. Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. They will play Seattle in the first round.
  • Dmitriy Zaitsev remains out after taking an illegal hit last week. He did not play in either of Moose Jaw's final regular season games, but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
  • Adam Carlson has found his groove in Kansas City. Playing for the Mavericks of the ECHL, he won each of his two starts this past week allowing only one goal on 43 shots. He was named the 2nd star of the game for both games.
  • Madison Bowey recorded an assist on Friday and two more for Hershey on Saturday for three over the weekend in his first week back with the Bears. Bowey has spent the majority of the season with the Caps, but the additions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline meant there were just too many bodies up in Washington and not enough playing time to go around. As Bowey is waiver exempt, he became the odd-man out and was sent to the AHL. It would not be surprising to see him recalled by Washington when the NHL playoffs begin.
  • Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler brought his goal total up to five for the season with two goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday. The Bears really wanted to emphasize his offensive game this season to see if Siegenthaler could be developed into a two-way player. His strength is definitely is on the defensive end of the ice, but he will be a more versatile player if he can also be a threat offensively as well. You can see the highlights of Siegenthaler's two-goal game here:

  • Forward Hampus Gustafsson was recalled to Hershey last week and did not wait long to make an impact. He scored his first career AHL goal on Friday. He also added an assist making that game his first career multi-point game as well.
  • Tyler Lewington was suspended two games by the AHL for a punch he delivered to Bridgeport's Scott Eansor in Friday's game.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings