By Tony Jimenez
LONDON (Reuters) - The European Tour has backed the suggested ban on the anchoring of long putters, saying almost all of their player representatives supported the change to golf's regulations.
In November, the rule-making Royal and Ancient (R&A) and the United States Golf Association (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.
The U.S. PGA Tour disagrees with the suggested change, citing a lack of data detailing specific advantages in anchoring and the 40-year history of long putters as the main reasons not to back the proposal.
"The European Tour has been fully involved in the consultation process which ended on February 28," it said in a statement on Monday. "Our members support the unique role played by the governing bodies in formulating the rules of golf.
"Virtually all of our Tournament Committee and player representatives support the proposed rule even though they are aware, and have taken into account, the fact some members and especially our senior members use the anchored method."
The proposed rule change has also 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 PGA Tour came out against the ban last month.
"Essentially where the PGA Tour came down was that they did not think that banning anchoring was in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour," commissioner Tim Finchem told reporters at the time.
"The thinking of the players and our board of directors ... was in the absence of data or any basis to conclude there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring, and given the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, there was no overriding reason to go down that road.
"An awful lot of amateurs today use anchoring ... and a number of players on the PGA Tour who have grown up with a focus on perfecting the anchoring method ... did so after the USGA on multiple occasions approved the method years ago," added Finchem.
The European Tour said it had "respect and sympathy" for the views of the PGA Tour.
"The whole issue has received far greater focus and comment in the U.S. than in the rest of the world, perhaps because of the numbers of their golfers using the anchored method, and the set up ... of their golf courses and the firmness and speed of their greens," added the European Tour.
(Editing by Mark Meadows)