Fourteen-year-old Chinese sensation Guan Tianlang has shrugged off controversy surrounding the belly putter insisting he will have no concern competing, if necessary, with a conventional putter.
Guan made the golf world sit up and take notice last month in using a belly putter to capture the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
Victory meant he is set to become the youngest ever player to compete next April in the Masters and five years younger when Italy’s Matteo Manassero made his debut in the 2010 Masters.
But Guan was unconcerned by last week’s announcement by the R & A and USGA that anchoring of the long or belly putter against the chest or stomach will be outlawed from 1st January, 2016.
“I don’t think it will be a big problem for me because I do pretty well with a short putter too,” he said at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney ahead of this week’s Emirates Australian Open, according to a press release from the event’s organisers.
“Also, it only happens in four years, so there is plenty of time still.”
Guan’s victory underlined an increasing prevalence of long putters including Major wins by Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els using the new-style equipment, all in the past year.
The trend forced golf’s rules-makers to act, but set off a wave of concern from players who have based their careers on long putters.
Guan said he was comfortable with a short putter and will be ready to the switch if the ruling bodies so decree.
“I practice with the short putter every week so there’s not much difference, but just a bit,” he said.
“I’m ready and I have the technique, but I am not going to change right now.”
Tom Watson, the eight-time Major winner who is also competing in Sydney, welcomed the anchoring ban with “mixed emotions”.
“My son Michael, with a conventional putting stroke, could not make it from two feet half the time,” said the 63-year old eight-time Major winner.
“He went to a belly putter and he makes everything. The game is fun to him again.”
However Watson was also delighted that Guan qualified for next year’s Masters, and a Major Watson captured first in 1977 and then again in 1981
“I dreamt about playing Augusta at 14 years old but I think it is wonderful what Augusta has done with this Asian Amateur,” said Watson.
“I told Billy Payne they had done a really good thing for the world of golf. It opens up the game to every golfer in Asia.
“I can still remember wanting to be a professional golfer at 14. I used to look up to Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, Billy Caspar, Don January, Miller Barber. Sam Snead was still playing.
“This Asian Amateur gives people these dreams.”