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'I know what I’m doing is OK': Bernhard Langer addresses putting controversy ahead of Senior Players Championship

Bernhard Langer has faced criticism for his putting motion since the United States Golf Association changed its anchoring rules in 2016.

Langer, who's trying for his fourth major title in 2017 this week at the Constellation Senior Players Championship, holds the top of his long putter with his left hand and uses his right to guide the motion.

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Before the change, via Rule 14-1b, Langer anchored the club with his thumb and left forearm pressed to his body. Now, he executes the stance about an inch away from his chest.

That led to controversy at the U.S. Senior Open two weeks ago when viewers claimed Langer used illegal mechanics, and he addressed the problem Tuesday afternoon at the Caves Valley Golf Club.

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"I know I don't anchor because I can feel it myself whether I do or not, and I wouldn't break the rules," Langer said. "It's not who I am or what I want to be known for, so I'm totally comfortable with it. The tour is, the rules officials are. You know, [if] there's a few individuals out there who want to question things, I cannot control it. I'm going to focus on what I'm doing, and I know what I'm doing is OK."

The Takoma Park native expects this week’s event to be “a lot of fun,” marking the return from a rib injury that’s hampered him in recent weeks.

After the U.S. Senior Open, where he finished tied for 18th, Langer released a joint statement with the USGA and Scott McCarron, another PGA Tour Champions player who faced the same scrutiny.

Officials cleared Langer and McCarron of any infractions.

"I have extended many invitations to demonstrate and teach people how to use a long putter without anchoring," McCarron said. "I have never competed dishonestly because I have the utmost respect for the game of golf, and I will continue to represent myself and the sport to the best of my ability."

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Langer, entering this week's Senior Players Championship as one of the favorites, aiming for his fourth consecutive win in the event at different venues, was surprised the issue garnered attention a year and a half after the rule changed.

While his shirt may have appeared to wrinkle with his forearm leveraged against his body, Langer said, his motion has been the same since the new regulations. He said cameras, though zoomed in, don't show the full view.

The Constellation Senior Players Championship has lost one of its biggest draws -- former Masters champion Fred Couples.

"If that had come out, whatever, at the very beginning [of the new guidelines,] I could have seen it," Langer said. "I know I'm not anchoring, and I'm really the only one that truly knows because, as I said, I would feel my hand touching my body or the club touching my body, and that's not the case."

Langer's competitors aren't dwelling on the controversy, either.

During his press conference Tuesday morning, Fred Funk, a Takoma Park native returning from a rib injury this week, lauded Langer, who won the Masters in 1985 and 1993, for his consistency and stamina.

"He truly is a machine the way he plays golf and is just so dominant," Funk said. "The way he plays week in and week out, round by round, hole by hole, it just doesn't matter. It's unending perseverance … He's the guy we're always trying to catch, wondering where he's going to be in the field. If he gets off to a slow start, he always comes back. It just doesn't seem to matter. Bernhard's Bernhard."

Update: An earlier version of this story falsely attributed McCarron's part of the USGA joint statement to Langer.

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