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R&A will take time on 'sensitive' putter issue

Japan's Ai Miyazato tees off on the 18th during a practise round at The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland, July 31, 200
Japan's Ai Miyazato tees off on the 18th during a practise round at The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland, July 31, 200

LONDON (Reuters) - The proposed ban by the Royal and Ancient (R&A) on the anchoring of long putters was proving "particularly sensitive" in the United States, the sport's rule-making authority said on Friday in announcing it would take time to evaluate the responses.

In a statement issued the day after the closing of a 90-day window for the worldwide golfing community to react to the proposed ban, the R&A said it would continue working towards a final resolution.

While the R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA) are in agreement the thorny issue of belly putters threatens to divide the sport with PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Fincham threatening not to enforce any rule change.

"Anchoring has been a polarizing issue in our sport and despite having weighed the matter thoroughly before making the proposal, we believed it was important to give stakeholders in the game the opportunity to air their views," the R&A said.

"Our consultation period has generated a number of considered responses which have continued to arrive right up to the deadline. We appreciate those responses and will take time to review and evaluate them.

"We note that this matter has proved particularly sensitive in the United States, while the proposed rule change has been received more favorably across the international golfing community.

"As we have throughout this process, we will work closely with the USGA in moving towards a final resolution."

Last November the R&A and USGA proposed to outlaw the controversial process of anchoring a long-handled putter to the body during the swing - a technique employed by three of the last five major winners - from 2016.

It has received support from the likes of world number one Rory McIlroy and 14-times major winner Tiger Woods but others such as British Open champion Ernie Els, who switched to a long putter in 2011, have voiced their opposition.

"The discussion has been informative and serves as a strong reminder of just how passionate golfers are about the game - no matter their position on this specific issue," the USGA said in a statement.

"Throughout this period, we have worked to explain the intent of Rule 14-1b, which aims to clarify and preserve the traditional and essential nature of the golf stroke that has helped to make golf a unique and enjoyable game of skill and challenge for centuries."

The R&A and USGA say putters should swing freely and not be anchored to any part of the body, and that swinging a club freely has been the essence of the 600-year-old sport.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman and Alison Wildey, editing by Justin Palmer)

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