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Mixed Emotions for golf stars over Long putter ban

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Chinese teenage sensation Guan Tianlang says he has no concerns about long putters being banned by golf's ruling bodies because he is equally at home with a traditional short stick.

Guan, 14, who next year will become the youngest person ever to play in the U.S. Masters, earned his ticket to Augusta by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand last month -- using a longer-than-normal putter that he anchors to his belly when making a stroke.

"I don't think it will be a a big problem for me because I do pretty well with a short putter too," he said at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney, where he is taking part in this week's OneAsia Emirates Australian Open.

"Also, it only happens in four years, so there is plenty of time still."

The Royal & Ancient and USGA last week announced a proposal to ban any anchored stroke from all forms of golf from 2016 -- when Guan will be 18 and possibly harbouring hopes of turning professional.

Usually the last reserve of players suffering from the "yips" -- or those getting on in years -- the use of long-handled putters has increased dramatically.

Three of the last five Major winners used anchored putters -- Keegan Bradley at the 2011 U.S. PGA Championship and Webb Simpson and Ernie Els at the U.S. Open and Open Championship this year.

Long putters have also been a boon to club manufacturers, who have reported huge increases in sales around the world. Any ban would impact their bottom line.

Tom Watson, the American eight-time Major winner who is also playing at The Lakes this week, said he welcomed the ban as it simply wasn't a golf stroke.

"I say that with mixed emotions," he added. "My son Michael, with a conventional putting stroke, could not make it from two feet half the time. He went to a belly putter and he makes everything. The game is fun to him again.

"There lies the danger: to take away the ability of people to have fun because it is not a stroke of golf. Do we go to two sets of rules, so people can use it in certain competitions and the PGA Tour can't? I don't know. There is a dilemma."

Australian golf legend Peter Thomson saw Guan in action last week when he captained an Asia-Pacific select side to victory against Team China in the Ryder Cup-style Dongfeng Nissan Cup, and he advised the youngster to switch as soon as possible.

"It takes time to get used to something," said Thomson, a five-time Open Championship winner and the first Australian to be inducted into world golf's Hall of Fame.

"The sooner he does it the better."

Guan, however, is in no hurry. "I practice with the short putter every week. Not much, but just a bit," he said. "I'm ready and I have the technique, but I am not going to change right now."