PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem interrupted the final match of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship to announce that the Tour is officially protesting the proposed rule to ban anchored putters. Earlier in the week, the Player Advisory Council and Policy Board convened to discuss the issue and the majority were against the rule change, and those who were initially for the ban were swayed to alter their position.
The USGA and the R&A notified us several months ago about their intention to put forward a proposal to change‑‑ essentially change the rule as it relates to what a stroke is by further defining it as something where you can’t ground your club and anchor your club. In addition to the historical limitations on what a stroke is of scraping the ball or scooping the ball or pushing the ball.
We then undertook to go through a process to determine our position on that because they had a commentary that ends next week. We brought that to a conclusion last week.
You’re all aware of that because of the comments that have been made by folks who were involved in that process. Our Player Advisory Council looked at it twice. We had the USGA come in and make a presentation to a player meeting in San Diego, USGA made a presentation to our Board.
We researched and looked at it and articulated our position at the end of last week to the USGA and shared that thinking also with the R&A.
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. I would note that the PGA of America came to the same conclusion after consultation with their membership. Golf Course Owners Association came to the same conclusion, as well.
I think there are a number of factors here, a number of details, a number of issues, but I think the essential thread that went through the thinking of the players and our board of directors and others that looked at this was that in the absence of data or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring, and given the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, that there was no overriding reason to go down that road.
Recognizing a couple of things: One, that an awful lot of amateurs today use anchoring; and two, that a number of players on the PGA TOUR who have grown up with a focus on perfecting the anchoring method, if you will, did so after the USGA on multiple occasions approved the method years ago, and that for us to join in supporting a ban we think as a direction is unfair to both groups of individuals. So those were the overriding reasons.
I’d be happy to answer your questions in just a second, but I would like to add to that because I’ve read some things that would suggest that this is kind of a donnybrook between the PGA of America and the PGA TOUR on one side and the USGA on the other, and that’s not really, I think, correct. You know, the USGA did on multiple occasions look at this and come to one conclusion; 25 or 30 years later now they’ve come to another conclusion, at least tentatively. They’ve asked us to give our comments. All we’re doing at this point is saying this is our opinion.
We have worked with the USGA over the last 20 years on a wide range of rules issues. We are represented on their rules committee as an ex‑officio member by members of our staff. We worked together on the grooves issue, we worked together on capping the ball after it took off in 2000. We have partnered with the USGA on the creation of the World Golf Foundation, the World Rankings Board, the International Federation of PGA Tours to some extent, certainly the international Olympic effort that we have made has been in partnership with the PGA, the PGA TOUR, and the USGA.
None of this debate over this particular issue is going to change any of that, so I want to‑‑ as I said in Hawai’i, I continue to hope that regardless of where this matter ends up that it gets there after a process that is good natured, open, and not contrary or divisive, and that’s certainly our intention.
We hold the USGA in the highest regard as a key part of the game of golf. We don’t attempt to denigrate that position in any way whatsoever. It’s just on this issue we think if they were to move forward, they would be making a mistake.
One of the key points in Finchem’s argument is that banning anchoring will impede the growth of the game … because so many amateurs are using anchored putters and will totally give up the game due to the rule change in 2016. False. In fact, Finchem cited some interesting data, claiming that 20% of amateurs use that style of putting. Um, I’d like to know where that number came from because I rarely see long putters when I play golf.
How about the rest of you at your clubs and courses? From the response I got on Twitter, there are very few golfers using anchored putters. And for the few of you who do, are you going to quit because you can’t use a belly or long putter anymore? I highly doubt it.
The Tour’s stance represents the self-interests of about a handful or so of its 200-plus members and is not a result of what’s “best for the game.” Well, Finchem’s comments are a huge slap in the face for golf’s governing bodies, who truly believe in protecting the integrity of the game and not to pad their pockets.
I think I break down the consequences and chaos that the Tour’s opposition will potentially cause in this post from Friday. However, I’d also like to add the confusion that it may lead to when it comes to the four majors. So, anchoring will be allowed on the PGA Tour, but it will not be for the U.S. Open and Open Championship? (Who knows what the Masters will do and the PGA seems to side with the Tour’s stance.) That’s just a recipe for a total sh*tshow. Pardon the language, but I can’t find a better way to describe it.
Next up: get ready for bifurcation. That should be a fun and smooth process!