Finchem talks about anchoring ban and players' meeting at Farmers presser

Tim Finchem, Bill Clinton
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Tim Finchem (right, driving) with former president Bill Clinton at the 2013 Humana Challenge.

SAN DIEGO -- Golf's proposed ban on anchored putting dominated the conversation as PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem held a press conference at Torrey Pines on Wednesday, the morning after the USGA's Mike Davis addressed a players' meeting to talk in more detail and take questions about the ruling. Tuesday night's players' meeting was the first since the USGA and R&A's November announcement of the proposed ban of putting strokes in which belly putters and other long putters are steadied against the body.

"We were pleased that the USGA availed themselves of actually presenting the detail of the rule to the players, so the players, as a body, had an opportunity to understand some of the nuances of the rule," Finchem said. "It also gave the players an opportunity to provide their own perspective, in some cases."

Reporters were not allowed into the meeting at the Torrey Pines Lodge. A few players reportedly noted that Tim Clark, who is not playing this week's Farmers Insurance Open but flew in for the meeting, spoke against the ban. Clark anchors his long putter against his sternum.

"After the USGA left, we continued the discussion," Finchem said. "It was primarily designed to allow players to be able to give their opinions."

The commissioner said he sees both sides of the issue and it's too early to jump to any conclusions. Several questions remain unanswered, among them whether the Tour will adopt the ban or ignore it, which would amount to a so-called "bifurcation" of the rules. Although Finchem said he sees no harm in the Tour occasionally bucking the regulations as set forth by the USGA, he didn't sound eager to do so.

"That certainly wouldn't be our objective," he said. "Our objective is to follow the rules and keep the rules together."

If the Tour does abide by the anchoring ban, it would likely do so well ahead of the USGA's timetable, in which the ban wouldn't begin until 2016. "My view would be to move it quicker, if it's going to happen, because it continues to be a distraction if you don't," Finchem said. "You have players on television, in front of galleries, playing with a method that has been outlawed, even though the enforcement date is later."

Finchem, who said he personally tried anchored putting in 2000 but has since gone back to a conventional stroke, acknowledged the passionate arguments on either side and at times looked anguished in his press conference, placing his head in his hand and rubbing his face before answering questions. He said the Tour is trying to abide by the USGA and R&A's timetable for making the proposal official, which would mean the Tour Policy Board could come to some sort of decision -- with input from the Player Advisory Council -- by the end of March.

"It's kind of an interesting thing, and it's a difficult thing," Finchem said. "If the governing bodies had said in 1965, like after Sam Sneed came out and putted croquet style, and a week later they changed the rule or whatever it was, if they had said, 'You know, this isn't consistent with historically the way you swing a club, so we're not going to allow it,' nobody would have blinked an eye. Nobody would have been affected, except for maybe two players.

"But 40 years later," he added, "and the amount of play there is with that method, amateur and professional, it does affect a lot of people. So it's a very different kind of issue, and it stirs a lot of strong feelings. So consequently, it's a difficult situation."
 

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