The most heavy-handed way he could persuade the USGA to drop the proposed ban, and I would normally never describe Tim Finchem as heavy-handed, would be by convincing the Tour Policy Board on Monday that the Tour should tell the USGA the following: If the USGA goes through with this ban, the PGA Tour will very likely consider creating our own condition of competition that will allow anchored putting on the PGA Tour, the WEB.com tour and Champions tour. If that happens, there will be chaos. The USGA could quickly lose its authority as the governing body of American golf.
Ted Bishop, the president of the PGA of America, thinks a ban on anchored putting will impede the growth of the game. I believe his view of this issue is dead wrong. There are several obvious socio-economic reasons why participation is down, including the shrinking middle class and how much less time we have to play the game. To think that potential new golfers won't play the game because they can't anchor? C'mon, Ted.
In addition, many people in golf are using the anchoring issue as a platform to make bifurcation part of the debate, different games for different groups of golfers. Not just in the rules, but involving the ball we hit, the clubs we swing, and even the course we play. Mark King, the TaylorMade president, recently suggested that the hole be enlarged to 15 inches . Why don't we just invent another sport and call it golf!
Tim won't find it easy to get a consensus in the Monday phone conference, but he'll likely get one. If the Tour's position is to tell the USGA to back down, Finchem will at least cover himself with the many PGA Tour and Champions tour players who want to continue to putt with an anchored putting stroke.
One way or the other, whether the USGA goes ahead with the ban or withdraws it, the Tour would much rather operate under an established set of rules and not make the rules. The Tour has never governed the game. It has enough to do as it is.
In the end, I believe the USGA will not back off the proposed ban, and that the ban will be accepted on the PGA Tour. I have to think that the USGA anticipated this level of pushback from the Tour. But it really is also possible that the USGA will back down. It's so hard to know. This is completely unchartered territory.
In the 20-plus years that I've been watching Tim Finchem's moves very closely, I have never seen him lose an important debate. He's that smart and that good. But this debate is so different and difficult, it's like nothing we've seen before. The players certainly don't have a unified position. The USGA and the PGA of America are at odds with each other. Arnold Palmer is saying one thing (ban anchored putting) and Jack Nicklaus something else (I don't care). You one thing, your playing partner something else.
If Finchem successfully forces the USGA's hand here, a lot of people, including Tiger, are going to be upset. If he does nothing, other people will be upset.
Golf is supposed to be a place where people get a break from the noise and the fights. That's not going to happen this time, even on Tim's watch. On this issue, there's no middle ground. The USGA sees a large number of junior players learning the game copying Webb and Keegan and others. The percentages of Tour players who use anchored putting has crept from 6 percent to 18 percent over the past three years. Somebody is going to leave this conversation unhappy. When I say that, I'm talking about Monday's phone conference -- and all the conversations that will come after it.