May
21
2013
Anchors away: anchoring ban reaction from around the web (LIVE)
By Conor Nagle under Rules
The Masters 2013: Adam Scott is a worthy winner but it is now time to ban the belly putter

Adam Scott plans to keep the broomhandle. (Reuters)

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).

11.34

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!

Ciao.

11.32

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.

10.50

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

10.28

Remember when Tim Finchem claimed, live on television, that nearly 20% of amateurs were using anchored putting strokes?

Yeah, about that:

10.18

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.

10.13

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.

09.53

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.

09.49

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?

09.39

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.

09.37

Big J.D. is spoiling for some sort of revolution. To the barricades! Allez!

09.31

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.”

09.29

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*

09.17

Quotage:

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.”

09.14

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.

Conor Nagle