ADOPTING THE ANCHORING BAN
Morfit: In another juicy bit of news to come out of Farmers week, the players met for the first time since the USGA and the R&A announced their proposed ban on anchored putting. Tim Clark, who wasn’t in the field at Torrey Pines, flew in just for the meeting. In a press conference, Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem seemed to be trying to come down on every side of the issue. He seemed genuinely anguished about it, calling it "a distraction" more than once. Did we get any clarity from the players meeting and/or Finchem, or do we still have no idea where this is going?
Walker: It's over. On Jan. 1, 2016, anchored putting sleeps with the fishes.
Dusek: That's also the day I plan to start using one in protest.
Hanger: I think we have a pretty good idea of where it’s going. I predict lots of debate, but in the end the Tour will choose to adopt the rule, and they’ll do it at the end of this season. Too many big names are for the anchoring ban, and waiting until 2016 doesn’t make sense.
Dusek: Waiting until 2016 makes plenty of sense to the guys who use belly putters and want to earn as much money as they can before a ban kicks in.
Godich: They certainly need to do something about the date because January 2016 is a few months after the '16 season has started.
Van Sickle: Excellent point. You'd be changing rules mid-season.
Hanger: The larger issue for me is that waiting until 2016 will reflect badly on people who win using anchored strokes between now and then.
Wei: From the players I spoke to, it sounds like the Tour would put it in effect as soon as possible. The Tour doesn't want players who use anchored strokes getting heckled or called "cheaters." Also, every time the telecast shows Webb Simpson or Keegan Bradley, an announcer will bring up the USGA’s plans to ban the stroke. Do you really want that mentioned for the next three years?
Herre: I have no doubt that the USGA will go ahead with the ban. The question is: will the Tour go along? Sounds as if the PGA of America would follow the Tour. If that should happen, voila! Bifurcation.
Van Sickle: Finchem was obfuscating as usual, but it seems like he is clearly leaving the door open for the possibility that the Tour might not go along. I thought there was only a 2 percent chance of that before. I'm up to 20 percent now. Mickelson had a great point about not letting the players govern a sport. But there's also something to be said for controlling the rules of your own game instead of letting outsiders -- basically a bunch of amateurs with different business goals -- do it.
Dusek: The players I spoke with on Wednesday morning said there weren't too many fireworks. Geoff Ogilvy said Mike Davis was impressive and well prepared, whether you agreed with him or not. Clearly there is division among the pros, so while I thought the PGA Tour might adopt the anchor ban early, I'm not too sure it will anymore.
Morfit: I agree that the Tour will probably go along with the rule, and much sooner than 2016. When I listen to Finchem, I listen for words he repeats over and over again, and the one I heard in his presser at the Farmers was "presentation." It will look bad to have Tour pros using something that's been banned, and it doesn't look that great to have them using something that's under a proposed ban.
Wei: From the players I spoke to who were inside the room, it sounds like the USGA is going to go ahead with it. Will the Tour follow suit? Finchem, in the players meeting, was asked if he was in favor of different sets of rules for pros and amateurs. He gave a long, meandering answer, and the player said, “Well, is it yes or no?” Finchem then said, “It’s in our favor to have the same set.”
Van Sickle: I agree that the lag time might be embarrassing if the Tour waits until 2016. At the same time, these guys have been using belly putters for a decade. To not give them a reasonable period to adjust doesn't seem fair. I don't have a problem with three more years of anchored putting.
Godich: A three-year adjustment period for the best players in the world? I'd give them three months.
Dusek: If the PGA Tour adopts the ban early, we’ll be in a weird place. As an amateur, I’ll be able to use big-grooved wedges until 2024 and an anchored putter until 2016, but Keegan Bradley won’t. And loads of golfers say they don't want bifurcation? This makes absolutely no sense.
Walker: If the whole argument is that the PGA Tour wants to follow the rules of the USGA, then why would the Tour start the ban earlier?
Morfit: "Presentation." If the Tour adopts the ban, it will implement it earlier. Having sat in on Finchem's presser, that's the only thing I'm reasonably sure of.
Walker: That's the worst of both worlds. If he's so anguished, then why not give the Bradleys, Simpsons and Clarks the maximum amount of time to adjust?
Hanger: This ruling is different from grooves or some other equipment-based ruling. The USGA thinks this is cheating, plain and simple. And if the Rules of Golf are going to consider anchoring to be cheating in the very near future, the PGA Tour should either reject that ruling or adopt it post-haste.
Dusek: But even Mike Davis said, after someone yelled “cheater” at Keegan Bradley, that wins earned by players using anchored putters should not be seen as lesser achievements. Remember, the USGA and the R&A have never said that putting with an anchored putter makes it easier to get the ball in the hole.
Hanger: Davis said that, but I don’t think he meant it. The USGA and the R&A made this ruling because they think anchoring provides an unfair advantage. If you do something that gives you an unfair advantage, you’re cheating. I don’t agree with the ruling or the heckling, but the ruling bodies can’t have it both ways.
Dusek: No way. Don't you think if Davis had a study, ANY STUDY, that showed improved performance with anchored putting methods, that he would have trotted it out by now? No one should change the rules based on what they think; you change a rule like this because of what you can show and/or prove.
Hanger: I agree, but that’s exactly what the USGA and R&A did. They changed the Rules because they think it’s not proper to anchor the club.
Wei: It's ridiculous to even consider an asterisk for players who won majors using anchored putters. They won those fair and square.
Reiterman: It is ridiculous to think that, but the reality is that players who continue to anchor their putters will get heckled, and they will be called cheaters by some boozed-up fans. Finchem knows this, and that’s why the Tour will adopt the ban waaaay before 2016.
Van Sickle: They changed the rule because they don't like the way it looks, the same reason they (and by “they” I mean Peter Dawson) don't allow rangefinders in competition.
Wei: And they don't want the anchored stroke to become the norm in the future, and they've seen more and more golfers on all levels who use one. The USGA and R&A's job is to protect the integrity of the game. In the players’ meeting, Mike Davis readily admitted that the USGA should have banned it a long time ago. But just because you make a mistake doesn't mean you can't "right a wrong."
Morfit: Well said. It's never too late to do the right thing. (Or something like that.)
Hanger: They’ve been doing the right thing all along, and now they’re screwing it up. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Van Sickle: Interesting. What if the USGA had done nothing about anchored putting? I don't think it would've had any grand implications on the future of the game one way or the other.
Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Will the PGA Tour adopt the anchoring ban, or go their own way?