By Patrick Johnston
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Adam Scott shot down a putter rule change suggestion by Tiger Woods on Tuesday and told golf's governing bodies to focus on more pressing issues as the Australian leapt to the defense of controversial long putters.
Once seen as a desperate attempt by struggling golfers to change their fortunes on the greens, long putters - like the broom handle or belly putter that Scott uses - have seen a dramatic rise in popularity in professional golf.
American Webb Simpson used one to win the U.S. Open this year to follow compatriot Keegan Bradley's success in becoming the first major winner to employ a long putter at last year's U.S. PGA Championship.
South African Ernie Els made it a trio of long putter major champions with victory at this year's British Open with The United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient (R&A), the game's two governing bodies, since discussing the status of 'anchored putters' with a ban being considered.
World number six Scott, speaking before this week's $6 million Singapore Open, said he had spoken to European Tour Chief Executive George O'Grady about the issue last week, adding that a ban on the long putter he has used since 2011 would be unfair.
"It is very hard to find a good reason to do that (ban it) at this stage so my conversation was to find out where things sit because it is very hard to get information," Scott told reporters on Tuesday.
"My opinion would be I don't think it is in the best interests of the game to ban the long putter I think there are some more important issues that probably should have time spent on them than putting."
Critics say that the belly putter, in particular, offers an unfair advantage to those using the traditional short putter as players can anchor the club in their stomach which involves less body movement and ultimately fewer errors.
Fourteen-times major winner Woods has voiced long-standing opposition against the use of the long putters, which tend to measure between 38 and 46 inches, and has spoken to R & A chief executive Peter Dawson about amending the rules.
The American believes putter length should be capped and be equal or less than the shortest club in the golfer's bag. Scott was not a fan of that idea.
"His voice carries some weight on the issue, a lot of players have been quite outspoken about it and certainly when Tiger Woods speaks about it generates a lot of interest," the 32-year-old said of arguably the world's greatest golfer.
"But I'm not necessarily sure his views on what the putter should be are correct at all, I don't think the putter should be the shortest club in the bag, that has never been a rule in golf so I don't know why it should be now."
U.S. Ryder Cup player Bradley said at last week's HSBC Champions event in China that he would be prepared to take legal action should the putter he has used for 16 years be banned.
Swede Carl Petterson was another adamant a ban was not the solution.
Scott does not want to see lawyers come into it, insisting the two governing bodies should focus more on capping other golf club design which has led to players hitting the ball extreme distances and courses being extended.
"We certainly don't need that sort of carry-on going on in the game of golf. I think it is all unwarranted, all of it, and there are more important things to worry about," Scott said of possible legal action.
"I think that it is fairly well acknowledged that length generally is probably the biggest issue in the game and it doesn't just mean how far pros hit it.
"Some of our courses, great courses are too short these days. If we are talking about equipment side of things the length issue is probably the most important because tees are moved back. Greens are not changed because people are putting with a long putter."
(Editing by Alastair Himmer)