The USGA is in the midst of simplifying -- some would say loosening -- the Rules of Golf. But that doesn't mean golf's governing body still isn't cracking down on certain aspects of the game.
Enter budding PGA Tour star Bryson DeChambeau, who recently switched to a sidesaddle method of putting. Although there's nothing in golf's rules prohibiting the unorthodox style, the USGA deemed DeChambeau's putter to be a non-conforming club, as first reported by Morning Read's Adam Schupak.
It seems the problem wasn't with the putter's head, but that it was center-shafted. DeChambeau told Schupak he was informed of the USGA's decision by a PGA Tour official on the eve of last week's CareerBuilder Challenge.
"I was very disappointed with the way they handled it," DeChambeau said. "They've said to me, too, that they don't like the way I'm doing it. But it's within the rules, and I don't know why they don't like it. They say I'm potentially taking skill out of the game. Anything that helps shoot lower scores or makes golf more fun and grows the game, that's what I'm all about."
DeChambeau said he used the putter head with a shaft in the rear at the CareerBuilder Challenge. He shot scores of 70-72-71 at PGA West to miss the cut.
USGA director of public relations Janeen Driscoll told GolfDigest.com that the USGA doesn't comment on why a club submitted for testing is deemed conforming or non-conforming because of a confidentiality agreement with all manufacturers. However, Driscoll emphasized this was an equipment ruling only and that it had nothing to do with sidesaddle putting or the way DeChambeau used the club.
The USGA also provided a more specific timeline of events. Dechambeau submitted the club to be tested on Jan. 4 and the USGA told him it had concerns with the club on Jan. 11. On Jan. 18, the day before the CareerBuilder Challenge, DeChambeau got a "duration of competition" ruling from the PGA Tour. That indicated the club would be ruled non-conforming, but technically, it meant DeChambeau could have used it as is for the remainder of the tournament. On Tuesday (Jan. 24), the USGA informed DeChambeau that the club was officially non-conforming.
DeChambeau first used the sidesaddle method at the Franklin Templeton Shootout in December. He told reporters at that event: "I'm concerned if I start doing well with it, what will they do? It's within the rules. It's legal. Will they make a new rule? We'll fight it all the way."
There has been no indication that the USGA will ban sidesaddle putting like it did with anchored putting. At the time of DeChambeau's switch, former USGA executive director David Fay told Golf Digest he didn't see the method ever being outlawed since it's really just an extremely open stance. But golf clubs still have to make the USGA's conforming list to make it into a tour pro's bag -- no matter how they're used.