by Jeff Skinner
On Sunday PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem took some time to address the assembled press at The Match Play Championship on the Tour’s stance on the anchoring ban.
The Commish says it’s the PGA Tour’s stance that a ban on anchoring would be bad for the game and more specifically for the PGA Tour.
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.
Finchem is careful to say that the PGA Tour doesn’t want to get into the rule making business but it is clear that the players, 13 of 15 on the Players Advisory Council anyway, are against banning the stroke.
Here is where it gets interesting. It appears that the USGA and the R&A are all set to put the ban on the books. They were careful to only place a ban on anchoring to the body and not ban any particular club. But if enacted the rule change will essentially ban long and belly putters from the game.
So if Finchem and the PGA Tour Players want to ignore the rule change would they actually allow an anchored stroke and disregard the rules of golf? I can’t imagine that the Tour could play a game different from what the USGA and the R&A dictate.
That would put any player with a long putter in the unfortunate position of being labeled a “cheater.” There have been instances of fans heckling tour players already and that situation would be unbearable for the tour players, the fans and the game.
I will say this, Finchem says 20% of amateur golfers use a long or belly putter. I must play with only the other 80%. I probably played with 30-40 different golfers last season, all amateurs, none of them carried a long putter.
So where does this all leave us? The Tour, The PGA of America, The Golf Course Owners of America, and the equipment manufacturers are all against the ban. Plenty of high profile players, past and present have come down on both sides so there is no real consensus.
The USGA has said it will act on the proposed ban in the spring and that may be when the real fireworks start. If the PGA Tour elects to go their own way and ignore the rules of the game it won’t be pretty and it will launch the most controversial era in the history of the game.