With anchor ban decision, Tim Finchem proves he does not have his players' backs
Remember what Keegan Bradley said months ago? Back when the proposed anchoring ban was still just that -- a proposal? Back when the PGA Tour expressed its opposition to the proposal during the so-called 90-day discussion period, as the United States Golf Association and R&A sat back and waited because they'd already made up their minds?
"I think Tim Finchem will back his players," said Bradley, who's been using a belly putter since 2008.
Keegan, your backup made like Elvis and has left the building. Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour announced Monday that they will go along with the anchoring ban. (The PGA of America, which also had vociferously opposed the ban, likewise agreed to adopt it on Monday, rendering the anchoring debate all but dead.)
This is the same Tim Finchem who said, "We don't think that banning anchoring is in the best interest of golf and the PGA Tour."
The same Tim Finchem who said, "In the absence of data or any basis that it offers a competitive advantage and the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, there's no overriding reason to go down that road."
The same Tim Finchem who said that taking away a putting stroke that players had worked years to perfect "would be unfair."
Let's face it, though: Monday's announcement came as no huge surprise. I've written repeatedly that it was easy for Finchem and the Tour to talk tough during the discussion period, but that it would be something else to defy the USGA and R&A.
So now we know Finchem doesn't have his players' backs. At least, not those players who anchor, i.e., the players he had spoken up for earlier. Thanks for the support, Commish. It was nothing more than lip service.
Sure, it's a difficult issue. It's a divided issue. It's hard to tell exactly how many players are for or against anchoring, but it seems like a fairly even split. Maybe it's 50-50, maybe it's 60-40. The point is, if division among the players was an issue, the Tour should not have come out in opposition to the ban.
Not that it matters now. Or maybe ever mattered. The R&A was always going to ban anchored putting the moment a guy using a belly putter (Ernie Els) edged out a guy using a long putter (Adam Scott) to win the 2012 British Open. The "discussion" period was just for show. The delay after that period was also just for show, to make it appear that the governing bodies were thoughtfully considering the decision.
I didn't believe for a second that the other shoe wouldn't drop and the ban wouldn't be instituted. Just as I don't believe Finchem had any intention of seriously standing up to the USGA and R&A. He played both sides of the fence. Like lawyers often do. Using words is just a game. You know, like the whole famous routine about the definition of the word, "is."
I'm not surprised. I know one thing about the PGA Tour: It talks a big game about how much it has raised for charity; its tournaments are a tremendous vehicle for community fundraising and, yes, they're working on their second billion. That is amazing. One of its old slogans was, "Anything's possible." There were dozens of feel-good commercials.
And then, when a player came along with a disability -- a withered leg, say -- and made it to the Tour, the Tour responded by trying to sue him into oblivion instead of making him the poster boy of hope and "Anything's Possible." Casey Martin needed a cart to play golf. He was a true underdog, a true feel-good story, and the courts upheld his right to use a cart in competition under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
So the PGA Tour didn't back up Martin, either. It talked the talk but didn't walk the walk. It fought him every step of the way and did everything it could to stop Martin. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer and others who should be embarrassed filmed depositions speaking out against Martin. Finally, against the advice of the Tour's legal experts, Finchem appealed the case to the Supreme Court. The justices sided with Martin, proving the Tour's lawyers finally got something right.
Finchem and the Tour aren't there for the players. The players are there for Finchem and the Tour. Keegan Bradley didn't know that back in February. Now he does.
Let's go to the Van Cynical Mailbag. Your questions, my answers:
Van Cynical, If Inbee Park wins the British Open but loses the Evian, should it still be considered a Grand Slam? Your call? -- Howard Riefs via Twitter
Thanks for practically putting this one on a tee, Howie. Yes, it's a Grand Slam. I realize that women's majors have evolved over time-there used to be only three-but you can't just dub a tourney a major overnight. The Evian isn't a major until we, the people, say it is. Let's not minimize Park's achievement, if she wins the Open, by proclaiming that she has to jump through an extra hoop somebody just made up. Four majors in one calendar year? Not even Tiger Woods did that.
Vans, Since Inbee Park is defending champ at Evian, if she wins the British Open is that the Bee Slam? -- Eric Houser via Twitter
If she defends her Evian title successfully, I guess that makes her the Bee Keeper. Great piece of info, Eric. Can your marketing department do a little better than Bee Slam, though? The Central Park? After the Open, is it the Bee Four?
Gary, What would media coverage be like if Paula Creamer had won three majors in a row? -- Derek Lewis via Twitter
Fantastic question, Deke. You'll soon be getting the bronze statuette of Jerry Springer for Query of the Week. A better question might be, What if Michelle Wie had won three majors in a row? It wasn't that long ago that Golf Channel went nearly apoplectic after Wie shot 68 in the first round of U.S. Open sectional qualifying before stumbling in the second 18. That was in the days before they could afford enough cameras and satellite hookups to cover sectional qualifying live. There was definite Wie-mania for a while. Creamer would be front page of the sports section if she had three majors instead of the bottom of Page 4, as Park got in my local rag. Why? Because Creamer is American, she's attractive and she's been heavily marketed for years. The golf public knows her, or at least knows of her. We can't say that about many other LPGA players. Park, meanwhile, is a relative unknown to most fans in the U.S.
Do your playing partners play better if you don't talk? -- HangOnSloopy via Twitter
I have only two words for my playing partners, "You're away." That's not true. Sometimes I say, "Are you gonna eat that pickle?"
Van Cynical, What year do Phil and Tiger captain Ryder Cup teams? -- Ed via Twitter
I'll pencil Phil in for 2022 but that's only if he accepts the job. I know he'd love the challenge of outsmarting the European captain but I'm not sure he really wants the pressure of making all those decisions and being second-guessed. You've got Tom Watson in line, then maybe David Toms or even Fred Couples. And in 2020 the Ryder Cup goes to Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Could modest Steve Stricker get the nod in his home state? Maybe. I don't see Tiger taking the gig unless he has a change in attitude about the matches.
Van Sickle, What was it like covering Walter Hagen? -- Darin Bunch via Twitter
Awful. It was terribly slow, what with him showing up late and then always stopping to smell the roses.
Hey Gary, Does Phil Mickelson ever win another major? -- Brian Rosenwald via Twitter
The easy answer is, No. But because Phil always does what we least expect him to do, that means the answer is yes. Look, he coulda-shoulda-woulda won another 13 majors in his career; he was that close. And he certainly knows how to play Augusta. He's too much of a showman (honestly, who's better?) to not go out with a grand finale. Like winning the U.S. Open at age 50 or something.