As expected, the USGA and R&A availed of this morning’s conference call with journalists to confirm their amendment of rule 14-1b to prohibit the anchored putting stroke. The announcement brings to an end what the official statement describes as an “extensive review” of the issue, during which comments from various dissenting parties and interest groups — among them the PGA Tour and PGA of America — were considered at length.
Join us below the line for a breakdown of the rule change itself, plus quotes and reaction from the saga’s chief protagonists (except for Carl Petterson; he needs a few days to process things, apparently).
I leave you with a picture of Billy Horschel’s pants. They’re deserving of their own post, probably; but I can’t leave without putting my favourite tweet of the round in context.
Au revoir, readers! Enjoy what remains of the weekend.
Some reaction from around the web:
Some solid quotage from Golf Digest’s Mike O’Malley:
I particularly liked the response this quote from Steve Stricker (who also reaffirmed his intention to skip the Open Championship) elicited from the Twitter faithfiul:
A heartbroken Phil Mickelson the evening’s theatrics to a muted close. Of all his chances, this one was the most best. It hurt. And it will continue to do so for some time.
USGA President Glen Nager uses his preamble to raise a rhetorical middle finger in the direction of the critics who doubted Merion’s ability to present a stern test. The question of whether or not it delivered a fair one is sidestepped in favour of festooning Justin Rose with all sorts of medals and shiny things.
Bill Maccattee (?) goes straight for jugular during his post-presentation interview, enquiring after the inspiration behind his post-round celebration, that tearful look to the sky. More charming and forceful than I’ve ever seen him, Rose responds to the question, not by crying — oh no — but delivering a subtle and moving peroration on the nature of fatherhood.
Take that! Incredible.
He’s rocketed up in my estimation. Not only for the manner of the finish — that glorious string of anvil strikes that followed his three-putt at the 16th deserves to live on in the memory — but the dignity and eloquence of what followed.
A deserving champion; I just didn’t realise how deserving until the final putt dropped.
He’s come a long way, eh?
Justin Rose +1
Mickelson, Day +3
Dufner, Els, Horschel +5
Donald, Stricker +6
Matsuyama, Colsaerts, Fernandez-Castano, Fowler +7
Charl Schwartzel +8
Shouts of encouragement rain down as Phil settles over his pitch shot. Bones has left his side to attend the
flag wicker basket.
The strike is a good one, but the whereabouts of said basket won’t play a part in deciding the outcome. The ball trundles to a halt in the same band of semi-rough from which Rose played his third.
In the players’ area, Rose lets out a yelp of jubilation. Then another.
BECAUSE JUSTIN ROSE IS THE US OPEN CHAMPION!
Mickelson’s tee shot at 18 isn’t what he was looking for — that being almost anything other than a high push into the wiry stuff near the treeline.
His second, the most ambitious of fairway woods, comes out like a bullet, but instead of bounding forward onto the green, it skids to a halt on the steepest part of the false front. He’ll need to complete what remains in a single shot if he’s to avoid ending the day with his sixth runner-up finish at a US Open.
“I’m hoping it’s enough. <deep breath>Phew, what a day… You saw me looking to the heavens there. Obviously, it being Father’s Day, I started to think of my dad… <begins to break down>”
Tim Barter, who knew Rose’s father, Ken, well takes a couple of tearful gasps before forging ahead with a couple of mundane questions.
Moving stuff, even for a hardened cynic like myself.
Phil’s birdie putt at 17 crawls to within three feet. There’s a brief interlude, during which Mahan continues to unravel, before Mickelson steps in to convert his par.
The putt’s followed by a volley of manic cheers, but left-hander can feel the urgency: it’s now or never. Birdie at the last earns a berth in a tedious, 18-hole playoff.
At 18, Rose spurns the putter in favour of a delicate nudge with a fairway wood from the back edge. For a moment, it looks as if he’s holed it, but the ball comes to rest all of an inch from the left lip.
Tearing up, he guarantees his closing 70 and sends an impassioned look skyward.
Mickelson’s attempt at 16 creeps past on the high side. He needs a birdie and a par on the closing holes.
At 17, he opts for a six-iron. Needing an exceptionally big hit, he gets one. But he’s undone by his own brilliance — the ball hops clear of the ridge guarding the front but pulls to an immediate halt. Too much spin; the strike was too pure.
“The wrong club,” grumbles Butch Harmon, barely concealing his frustration in the Sky commentary booth.
Rose, the champion elect, faces the Hogan approach. It won’t be a one-iron this time, but the margin for error is that bit slimmer.
There’s time for what feels like an eternity to elapse before his ball bounds past the pin, coming to rest in the lightest of light fringe 15 feet from the flag.
That could well be the strike that comes to define his career.
At 16, Mickelson knows he can’t afford another error. His conversation with Bones is a long one. There’s too-ing. There’s fro-ing. Eventually, there’s a big, powerful heave and, a sharp intake of breath later, a white blob whispering to a halt within eight feet of the flag. An incredible strike from depths of Merion’s gnarliest rough.
The chase is on.
No birdie for Rose at 17, but par conveys him to 72nd teebox with his one-stroke advantage intact.
It’s the shot that could decide the championship, as par here would likely put him beyond the reach of Mickelson, whose drive at 16 has settled deep in the left rough.
The Englishman runs through that familiar pre-shot routine, hovering his driver along his elected line; settles over the ball, and hammers a drive to within spitting distance of the plaque commemorating Hogan’s miracle approach of yesteryear. Perfect.
A whiff with the short stick leads to the most unsatisfying of bogeys for Rose at the 16th. He responds by muscling a 5-iron to within 15 feet of the flag at 17. He’ll play his second from the narrow cushion of fringe ringing the green.
Faced with an impossibly severe break, Mickelson foregoes the putter and opts to skim a pitch across the 15th green. His touch deserts him, however, and just like that, what could have — perhaps should have — been a birdie becomes a five.
It’s a cruel game.
Just ask Hunter Mahan. He’s quit the green with an abject double-bogey (courtesy of two dismal putts).
A stroke of luck — take note, USGA — sees Mickelson’s tee shot pop out of the rough and into the 15th fairway. His second, with a short iron, isn’t good (there’s no way around it, folks). It lands wide left and rips away down the green.
“I just quit on it,” he moans over his shoulder to Bones.
Mahan fares even worse to leave himself a treacherous pitch over a greenside bunker.
A huge swing of pendulum sends Day’s ball skating up the ridge and onto the 17th green. It comes to rest 20 feet short, but that proves no problem at all — it’s stroked in with, dare I say it, an air of nonchalance. Miraculous two-putt, and no more than his tee-shot — a mere yard from perfection — deserved.
The list of contenders has thinned somewhat.
Mahan, Mickelson +1
Rose avoids turning a possible birdie into a painful bogey at the 15th by draining a six-footer.
Back on 14, Phil compensates for a shabby pitch by canning a ten-footer to send the crowd bananas. His playing partner, Mahan, keeps the mood high by converting what remained of his spinning bunker shot.
On 17, Day’s tee shot — a fairway wood, struck solidly — catches the enormous step set into the front portion of the green and is sent careening back onto the apron. Ludicrous.
A sheepish-looking Day escapes the 16th with a par. Don’t ask how; just go with it.
Oh, and the rain’s stopped.
Jason Day’s drive at the 16th was wild enough to find a narrow band of rough trampled flat by spectators, but he fails to take advantage of the break, pushing a short-iron into the scraggly, ankle-high stuff wide of the green.
On 16, Rickie Fowler, resplendent in traffic-cone orange, hooks a long-iron deep into the grandstand. No cry of fore, unfortunately; but the spectator chosen by Fate to weather the blow sees the funny side — he stands up to salute the crowd. Fowler isn’t quite as amused.
This closing stretch could well be yield a bloodbath.
Commenter TXQ wins the internets with this comment on Billy Horschel’s truly horrifying pants (tight, navy, covered with little octopuses/octopai/octopodi):
“Horschel’s pants way too tight. You can see his tentacles.”
Phil’s 40-footer for par comes to rest behind the hole.
Mahan’s putt to grab a share of the lead — Rose’s salvaged a bogey at the 14th — is a touch cautious. Still, he’ll have the honour at the next (silver lining, yo!).
Phil, slouched under an umbrella, is cheered the length of the 13th…
“You got this, Phil!”
… but he resists the temptation to don the mantle of swahbuckling hero and sends sensible pitch back down the green.
The rain appears to be easing off…
Rose shovels an odd bunker shot — nearly a socket, but with spin — onto the 14th green.
Back on the 13th, Mickelson enquires about electrical activity (no dice) drawing a short iron into the thick rough between the hazard and green on the short side. A calamitous approach, given the circumstances.
Having secured his par at the last, Mahan flicks a slightly tentative effort onto the dancefloor.
Rose makes an inauspicious start to Merion’s formidable closing stretch by blocking a long iron into a bunker guarding the 14th green.
The weather is really beginning to deteriorate; the spatter of rainwater on waterproof fabric ticks away in the background…
As the deluge well and truly begins, Mickelson sends a solid mid-iron to the safe edge of the 12th green. A touch of drawspin nudges the ball into the heart of the green.
Mahan’s caddy interrupts his charge’s pre-shot preparations to urge a tactical re-think. Unperturbed, the goateed one casts a high approach to within 20 feet of the flag. It would have looked very good in the air.
An errant tee-shot at the 14th costs Day his second dropped shot of the back nine.
ROSE HAS ANOTHER ONE! Another bomb, this time at the 13th, finds the centre of the cup. It was a beautiful strike, end-over-end — enough to prompt a Ryder Cup highlights package from Sky.
He pulls a shot ahead of Mickelson, who, putting back towards a large banner reading “Happy Birthday”, completes the second leg of a tricky two-putt at the 11th.
Distant rumblings — literal ones, like — and a few spots of rain suggest some
inclement crap weather might be inbound.
Say it ain’t so!
The 11th has been the scene of much drama over the last half-hour or so. Mickelson and Mahan do their best to bring the entertainment to an end by flicking a couple of workmanlike approaches into the fat part of the green.
Good on them, eh?
Justin Rose converts his birdie effort at the 12th to join Mickelson at the summit of proceedings.
Ernie’s, in at +5, is having a chat with Sky Sports’ Tim Barter:
“I don’t know what I was thinking at the last. I thought I was He-Man trying to get a five-iron to the front edge”
Asked about the severity of the closing stretch, he said it “was possible to hit good shots out there and still get in trouble”.
And therein lies the problem.
It’s all happening now!
Rose rebounds from his three-putt at the last by spinning a short iron to within five feet of the 12th hole.
WHAT’S HE DONE!?! WHAT’S HE DONE!?
Phil Mickelson, having carved a weak tee shot into the rough flanking the 10th fairway, sends a soft, cushioned wedge into the heart of the green. It lands with a whisper, catches the slope and trundles — slowly, inevitably — into the centre of the hole.
He’s level par and back in control of the tournament.
Steph was at the 11th for Jason Day’s shenanigans:
“Done with quote duty and walking with day. Amazing. On 11, he was in rough, hit bad shot into water. Almost hit second in water, stayed up barely. And he CHIPPED IN. I STILL HAVE GOOSEBUMPS.”
Now that she’s taken her good luck elsewhere, Justin Rose can only look on as his par putt at the same hole draws to a halt on the edge of the cup. It’s just teetering there.
The leading score creeps ever upwards.
Ahead on the 18th, Ernie Els’ bid to post an early score is faltering. His approach to the strong par-4 finished short of the green, paving the way for a weak pitch shot to the back edge. He’ll have a 20-footer to avoid undermining his fine work at the 17th.
Mickelson telegraphs his concentration to the galleries, pacing back and forth along the line of birdie putt, squinting and gesturing…
The effort turns out to be an audacious one, on an aggressive line, but it can only catch the left edge — not enough for a second birdie. He’ll stay put on +2.
Day, Mahan +1
Phil’s — all pars since his last double-bogey — decides to bypass that collection area at the front of the ninth by flying a majestic long iron all the way to the back edge.
That’s how he rolls.
Jason Day looks to be on course for at least a double-bogey at 11 — following visits to water hazards with chunky pitches has a habit of ruining scorecards — but he manages to hole his fifth shot, a chip from a fluffly lie short of the gree, to limit the damage to a single shot. Incredible.
The Aussie’s playing partner, Billy Horschel, three-putts to leave the green with the same score. He must be steaming.
Pardonez moi! Els’ approach at the 17th kept rolling to within three feet of the flag! His birdie effort catches enough of the hole to hoist him a further rung up the leaderboard. He’ll play the final hole at +4.
Rose leaves himself with a mere 78 yards to the 10th green. His approach is a tidy one, to 15 feet.
One of the few players on the course moving in the right direction, Ernie Els has finessed a long iron to within 15 feet of the 17th pin. A rare birdie at the par-three (another monster) would see him to +4 — the sort of number, should be post it, that would give the leaders pause.
Mahan has found the eighth fairway.
With the shortest of short irons in his hand — 140 yards is the yardage — he sends a slappy effort spinning a good forty feet short.
His playing partner, Mickelson, doesn’t fare much better.
Jason Day, moving this afternoon in a Dufner-esque bubble of inscrutable calm, finds another birde, this time at the 10th!
A share of the lead is his reward.
Mahan, managing to make the most of a poor tee shot at seven,, leaves himself with a ten-footer for birdie. The putt is a tentative one, though, and he’ll do no better (and probably no worse) than par.
An eerie stillness has descended on Merion.
The same breeze that was hurting players on the 256-yard third — forcing all kinds of crazy club selections — is helping on the 240-yard ninth. Rose, now a shot clear of Mahan and Day, takes a deep breath and pushes a soft 6-iron onto the front edge.
At the seventh, Rose is made to work for sole possession of the lead. His par effort, from a good five feet, catches just enough of the hole before dropping out of sight.
At the sixth, a fierce 490 yards this afternoon, Mahan leaves his approach shot on the apron just short. His “birdie attempt” (you’re having a laugh, Mr. Director) drifts seven feet past the pin. A slo-mo horseshoe later and he has his first bogey of the day on the card.
Mickelson, who striped his approach to within 20 feet, taps in for a regulation par.
A fluffed pitch and shaky effort with the short-stick see Schwartzel to his first double-bogey. Having begun the day so brightly — remember that birdie? — he’s bidding farewell to a town called Contention (population: 5).
Speaking of which:
Rose, Mahan E
Jason Day, quietly going about his business a few groups ahead of Messrs. Mickelson and Mahan, records his second birdie of the day at the eighth to stride to within a shot of the lead, held by Hunter Mahan (E)…
… and JUSTIN ROSE(!), who converts a double-breaking effort at the seventh to nudge his way under par for the day.
Mahan elects to putt from the heavy slope short of the fifth, and sends a sweet effort gliding past the right edge. A tidy par is in the offing.
Mickelson, whose third shot came to rest a good thirty feet right of the hole — at the highest point of the green’s camber — tickles an effort to within five feet. His next, a bid to avoid his second double-bogey of the day, slips by on the high side.
After splitting the fairway with his tee shot, Mahan’s approach to the fifth green — a long iron cut with the crosswind — plops to a halt a good twenty yards short of the surface.
But never mind that, Justin Rose has just canned a lengthy birdie putt to step quietly into the full glare of the spotlight.
Mickelson tweaks his tee shot at the fifth — I mean, just barely leaves it hanging out there — and looks on in frustration as it bounds away from left edge of the fairway and comes to rest in a lateral hazard. His recovery, from a heavy slope, finds the right half of the fairway.
On the green, Schwartzel converts an eight-footer for bogey (to narrowly avoid a hat-trick of three putts). He’s at +2 for the tournament.
Mickelson, Mahan E
Day, Rose +2
Horschel, Donald, Stricker +4
Phil lags his eagle effort at four to kick-in distance, while Mahan sends a wobbly birdie effort creeping past the front edge. And just like that, they’re tied.
Jason Dufner has just holed a putt at the 13th to go five-under-par for his round! Incredibly, he’s now +3.
Moments later, he celebrates arriving on the periphery of contention by blowing a tee shot straight out of bounds.
Those were good times, eh? The best times.
Mahan has taken a more sensible route to the fourth green, laying up before hoisting a lob wedge to within ten feet.
The Englishmen have parted ways — in scoring terms, I mean; they’re still playing together. Donald has dropped a couple of shots, while Rose has crept to within one of the lead.
WHAT A SHOT! Phil — who else? — supplies the day’s first little flicker of Hollywood pizzazz, by thumping a 4-wood all of 254 yards to within twenty feet at the fourth. He’ll have Schwartzel’s birdie putt — a slippery, right-to-lefter — for eagle(!).
Jason Day, beginning to look a little dangerous lurking there at +1, finds the fifth green in two…
While back at the fourth, Schwartzel puts the finishing touches to his second three-putt in succession — the first forgivable; this one a genuine unforced error — to fall back to one-over.
Schwartzel, the co-leader with Mahan, sends his birdie effort at the fourth a good three-feet past the hole. The margins are so impossibly fine.
A weak three-putt from Lefty sends him tumbling into a tie for third place alongside Jason Day.
At the next, Mahan — suddenly in possession of the lead, let’s not forget — betrays no anxiety whatsoever in splitting the fairway.
Mickelson tries to flop another sumptuous wedge onto the third green, but the strike isn’t the right one. He fails to find the correct level. He turns to Bones for quiet word, draws his putter and ambles over to meet his ball as it slithers, agonisingly, back down the green.
Mahan’s recovery, from the left rough, comes to rest less than a foot from the hole.
Like characters in some tedious body-swap comedy — think a more anxious version of Freaky Friday — Mickelson and Mahan appear to have taken on each other’s short games.
Schwartzel’s first putt at three wasn’t a great one. His second, from a couple of broomhandles away, speeds past on the high side. That’s a bogey, and Phil is once again in sole possession of the lead.
Hunter Mahan takes the tee. “I hit a fucking driver,” he mutters disbelievingly to himself after carving one wide right of the green.
Phil opts for a three-wood, but finds the first of two greenside bunkers on the left side.
Howard Clarke, Sky’s on-course reporter, estimates the third to be playing somewhere in the region of 290 yards (uphill, into the breeze).
Its setup is a work of architectural vandalism.
Schwartzel, Mickelson -1
Donald, Rose +2
Horschel, Stricker +3
SURELY NOT! Phil pulls his birdie attempt wide of the left lip. A putting stroke every bit as ropey as his bunker shot was immaculate.
He’ll head to the third tee on the same score he did the second: -1.
Schwartzel, lukewarm off a slightly unsatisfying par at the second, hammers a three-wood into the heart of the third green. His “birdie putt” will be a tricky one — what with his ball fallen the wrong side of a steep slope bisecting the green and all…
Back on the second, Mickelson’s fizzed a 64-degree wedge from the bunker guarding the front-right of the green to within five feet. He’ll have that for his first birdie of the final round.
And Jason Day creeps a shot closer to the lead with a birdie at the fourth.
Having disappeared from the coverage after his hoiked tee shot, Stricker returns to our screens as he settles over an eight-foot putt for a triple-bogey eight… which he duly converts.
He drops to +3.
On the third, Rose and Donald hole out for bogeys to continue their like-for-like navigation of the opening holes.
With his playing partner enjoying the perfect start, Steve Stricker has sent a ball out-of-bounds on the second. He’s in danger of dealing his final-round hopes a calamitous early blow.
Not the most dynamic striker of a ball in the world, wee Luke Donald is reduced to pulling driver in his bid to hit the par-3 – yes, par-3 – third. With the breeze huffing back towards the tee, it’s playing every inch of it’s 256 yards today.
A collision with a spectator — who wanders away looking a little dazed — is all that prevents his ball from finding some serious trouble.
No birdie for Phil at the first, but his par is as good as guaranteed.
Up ahead, the English duo of Justin Rose and Luke Donald has converted a pair of testing par putts.
First update from Stephanie, whose inside-the-ropes wanderings have just brought her face-to-face with USGA-grade frustration:
“On his way toward the shuttles, Kevin Chappell went behind one of the trailers, broke his putter and dumped it in the port-o-potty. It was hilarious.”
Chalk it up to post-traumatic stress.
Phil looks on as Charl Schwartzel, playing in the group ahead, drains his opening putt of the final round to take a share of the lead. It wasn’t a pretty strike, but crept in at the front edge
That makes it two at the top.
Unperturbed, Lefty/Superdad/FIGJAM gouges an approach onto the front portion of the green. He’s a good thirty feet, and a severe incline, removed from the pin. Mahan’s about five feet closer, on approximately the same line.
Mahan, dressed altogether more sensibly than yesterday — white shirt, grey slacks and trademark wraparounds — settles over his opening tee shot a little nervously, but finds the fairway.
Phil, all in black — shades of the ’04 Masters; t’would bring a tear to the eye — takes a couple of aggressive practice swings, applies le game face and drills a low, looping hook into the heavy rough bordering the right fairway bunker.
Bit of an anticlimax, that.
The final group has just arrived on the first tee, but before we get to the live action, let’s put things in context:
Mahan, Schwartzel, Stricker E
Horschel, Rose, Donald +1
2.36 Rickie Fowler and Micheal Kim
2.47 Jason Day and Billy Horschel
2.58 Luke Donald and Justin Rose
3.09 Charl Schwartzel and Steve Stricker
3.20 Hunter Mahan and Phil Mickelson
Welcome one and all, to Wei Under Par’s very first major championship liveblog! Feel free to join the conversation either by posting a comment below or firing an email in the direction of firstname.lastname@example.org.
An eerie calm has descended on Twitter. You can almost hear the rustle of paper as that 40-page report is variously skimmed, dissected and dismissed by the press corps.
I’m going to call it a day on the liveblogging front, but don’t fret, we’ll be back later on to hear what the players themselves made of this morning’s politicking.
I’ll leave you with this: a fairly succinct summary of my own position on anchoring. Let’s call it the official WUP editorial line.
Don’t forget to kick up a fuss in the comments section below!
Ooh, more dissent has hit the web, this time courtesy of John Solheim and Bob Philion, the heads of PING and Cobra Golf, respectively.
Jason Sobel has the details:
“I appreciate this was an open process,” Solheim said. “I also recognize the importance of a single rule book. However, I believe the rule-making bodies need to better address how we need to make the game more welcoming. I will continue to focus my efforts on that goal.”
Bob Philion, the president of Cobra Puma Golf, expressed similar concern.
“Golf lost today,” he said. “This is not the direction we should be going; it will only continue to alienate people from golf. Cobra Puma Golf has been stressing the importance of game enjoyment since we formed in 2010; game enjoyment is how we are going to bring people back to golf. This decision is a giant leap back on that front. With this decision, bifurcation needs to be front and center in golf’s conversations and we should be focusing on adapting the rules and the game to be inclusive and fun.”
If the partial loss of a tiny club-buying constituency has these guys so animated, I can’t wait to hear what Mark King of Taylor Made has to say for himself. The leader of the “grow the game” (ie. “grow the market at all costs”) contingent, he’s been one of the governing bodies’ most outspoken critics in recent months, agitating for an extreme, profit-driven brand of bifurcation (giant holes for amateurs, anyone?).
Here’s hoping there’s a statement in the works.
Some odds and ends:
No sympathy for PGA Tour sorts over at the BBC.
A 40-page break-up letter? Reminds me of an old Onion column about the late David Foster Wallace…
Remember when Tim Finchem claimed, live on television, that nearly 20% of amateurs were using anchored putting strokes?
Yeah, about that:
Ahoy! What’s this? It’s all spongy and vague, a puffy cloud of boardroom niceties and communications blah…
It can only be one thing: an official PGA Tour communique!
Check it out:
STATEMENT OF PGA TOUR ON ADOPTION OF RULE 14-1B
PGA TOUR acknowledges that the USGA has adopted Rule 14-1b which prohibits anchored putting as of January 1, 2016.
We would like to thank the USGA for providing the opportunity for input and suggestions relative to Rule 14-1b over the last several months. During that time, various questions were raised and issues discussed.
We will now begin our process to ascertain whether the various provisions of Rule 14-1b will be implemented in our competitions and, if so, examine the process for implementation.
In this regard, over the next month we will engage in discussions with our Player Advisory Council and Policy Board members.
We will announce our position regarding the application of Rule 14-1b to our competitions upon conclusion of our process and we will have no further comment on the matter until that time.
That’s a weight-bearing “whether,” if ever I’ve read one.
Opponents of the ban — belly putter rebels? — have repeatedly challenged the USGA and R&A to publish statistical data supportive of their position. It’s too serious an issue, they argue, to be decided entirely by the whims of stuffy, blazer-wearing amateurs. If anchoring offers an advantage, prove it.
To those people, Mike Davis says:
Davis is being a little disingenuous here. As G-Shack notes (and I’ve written previously), avoiding the publication of hard evidence has actually allowed the governing bodies to sidestep a volley of legal challenges. Accounting for their decision-making in forensic detail may have won a few hearts and minds, but it would almost certainly have led to a number of data-driven lawsuits.
Golf.com’s Cameron Morfit is tentatively optimistic about where this morning’s developments are likely to lead. Bifurcation is probably off the table:
Some have speculated that a ban could lead to lawsuits from players and/or manufacturers. How the Tour reacts is of particular interest, as it could implement the ban much sooner than 2016, or never. Under that scenario the Tour would no longer play by the USGA’s rules, creating a so-called “bifurcation” of the game. The PGA of America also could strike out on its own, which would affect not just the PGA Championship but many other national, state and regional tournaments. Either scenario would undermine the USGA’s leadership role in the game.
Finchem has said he’d prefer the game move forward as one entity under one set of rules, and Davis and Nager echoed that sentiment Tuesday, especially in light of golf’s impending return to the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio. Woods said Monday he hopes the Tour outlaws anchored putting as soon as possible. Padraig Harrington perhaps best embodies the complicated cloud of reason and emotion swirling around Rule 14-1b. Harrington recently began to use a belly putter but said at the Players he will keep using one until it is illegal — as it should be.
“It’s for the betterment of the game that we get rid of it,” he said.
Sergio’s been sticking his oar in…
… but I’m not entirely certain what he’s getting at. Is he suggesting players will find a way to score, even without anchoring, or that anchorers will find a way to circumvent the proposed changes?
If it’s the former, he’s not alone; it’s a view shared by SI’s Alan Shipnuck.
One of the defences adopted by anchorers in an effort to preserve the status quo has been the sheer amount of time they’ve invested training themselves to use the long putter. It has tended to serve as shorthand for a couple of more complicated challenges: a) that anchoring is less about gaining an advantage by default than it is commitment and practice, and b) that such an investment deserves to be protected.
Surely two-and-a-half years is long enough to transition back to method they grew up with?
If you thought the spectre of legal action had retreated into the background, think again. The Golf Channel’s Jason Sobel has been talking to Brendan Steele, who seems pretty sure things are about to get litigious.
Big J.D. is spoiling for some sort of revolution. To the barricades! Allez!
The substance of Bishop’s chat with Back 9 Network sits in somewhat awkward counterpoint to the rather more conciliatory statement just released by his organisation, the PGA of America (full text here):
“We are disappointed with this outcome. As we have said publicly and repeatedly during the comment period, we do not believe 14-1b is in the best interest of recreational golfers and we are concerned about the negative impact it may have on both the enjoyment and growth of the game. Growing the game is one of the fundamental purposes of The PGA of America.
“Although we do not agree with the decision, we applaud the USGA for its willingness to listen to our concerns and engage in meaningful discussions. In our opinion and based on our experience, the USGA treated the comment period for what it was intended to be — a time to exchange opinions, concerns and potential solutions.”
Sometimes news originates in unexpected places. To wit, Back 9 Network’s interview with PGA of America president Ted Bishop (excerpts here).
Filmed in anticipation of this morning’s announcement, the interview features an avuncular Bishop restating the case against anchoring:
“If you look at the history of rules changes I can’t think of too many in my 37 years of being in the golf business that have had a potential impact on the business of the game and the enjoyment of the game like this one has. I can point to two or three guys at my facility that over the winter came in and said to me, ‘you know what, if I can’t go out there and use a long putter going forward I may quit playing the game.’
“I’m very disappointed you know in the outcome of this. I think that PGA of America has been very vocal throughout the comment period on all the reasons why we oppose it, as has the PGA Tour. So, I think at this point in time we have to take a couple of steps backward, and just a regroup and figure out where are we going to go from here.
“It would be logical that we would definitively rule at the end of June when our board of directors convenes at our professional national championship in Sun River Oregon the last week in June, this is a topic that we need to talk about face to face and it’s also a topic that you know our directors need to solicit input from our 41 sections that they represent and that’s consistent about how we’ve handle this anchoring issue from day one. This wasn’t about a few guys at the top saying this is how we are going to deal with it, this is starting out at the ground level talking with the people that are in the trenches day in and day out and saying what do you think? What’s important to you? Let your voice be heard and so we have got a lot of work to do to get ourselves in a position where we can make a decision in 30 days.
“The prospect of their possibly being any kind of a rollback with the golf ball is something that the PGA of America does not feel is in the best interests of the game, I have had a hard time understanding how amateurs hitting the ball a shorter distance is going to speed up play and it is going to enhance the enjoyment of the game for them.”
I love the idea of normal people — the in-no-way fictional golfers sharing “the trenches” with Uncle Ted — sauntering over every so often to articulate their oppostion to anchoring, each one speaking in perfectly formed folksy soundbites.
“You know, Ted. If the long putters go, I just don’t know how I’ll keep the farm going any more…”
*Cue plaintive look into middle distance*
Glen Nager, USGA Blazer-in-Chief: “Having considered all of the input that we received, both before and after the proposed Rule was announced, our best judgment is that Rule 14-1b is necessary to preserve one of the important traditions and challenges of the game – that the player freely swing the entire club. The new Rule upholds the essential nature of the traditional method of stroke and eliminates the possible advantage that anchoring provides, ensuring that players of all skill levels face the same challenge inherent in the game of golf.”
Peter Dawson, Prince of the R&A: “We took a great deal of time to consider this issue and received a variety of contributions from individuals and organisations at all levels of the game. The report published today gives a comprehensive account of the reasons for taking the decision to adopt the new Rule and addresses the concerns that have been raised. We recognise this has been a divisive issue but after thorough consideration we remain convinced that this is the right decision for golf.”
Bonjour! Let’s get things started with an edited copy of the USGA/R&A statement on the issue:
Far Hills, N.J., USA and St Andrews, Scotland (May 21, 2013) – The United States Golf Association (USGA) and The R&A, golf’s governing bodies, today announced the adoption of Rule 14-1b of the Rules of Golf that prohibits anchoring the club in making a stroke. The new Rule will take effect on January 1, 2016, in accordance with the regular four-year cycle for changes to the Rules of Golf.
Rule 14-1b, which was proposed on November 28, 2012, has now been given final approval by the USGA and The R&A following an extensive review by both organizations. The decision to adopt the new Rule came after a comprehensive process in which comments and suggestions from across the golf community were collected and thoroughly considered.
The USGA and The R&A have prepared a detailed report to explain the reasons for the decision to adopt Rule 14-1b [a copy of that report can be found here. It’s 40 pages long. To paraphrase Sweet Brown: “Ain’t nobody got time for that (except rules officials and journalists)”]. The report explains the principles on which the Rules of Golf are founded, why freely swinging the entire club is the essence of the traditional method of stroke, and why anchoring is a substantially different form of stroke that may alter and diminish the fundamental challenges of the game. It points out that the Rule will still allow the use of belly-length and long putters and that a wide variety of types of strokes remain for players to use. The report concludes that the new Rule should not adversely affect participation in the game, that it is not too late or unfair to require players to comply with it and that it will remove concerns about any potential advantage that anchoring provides. It also makes clear that one set of Rules is essential to the future health of the game. The report, entitled Explanation of Decision to Adopt Rule 14-1b of the Rules of Golf, can be found at www.usga.org/anchoring or at www.RandA.org/anchoring.