Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
WHO WILL WIN THE BATTLE OF THE BELLY: THE PGA TOUR OR THE USGA?
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: As the PGA Tour moves to Florida, our guest this week is Greg Stoda, sports columnist for the Palm Beach Post. Welcome, Greg. Just as our Michael Bamberger predicted, the biggest news to come out of the Accenture Match Play Championship was the announcement by Tim Finchem that the PGA Tour was opposed to the USGA's proposed ban on anchored putting. What do you make of the Tour's stance? And how do you see this thing playing out?
John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: First, congratulations to Michael for his astute forecast. I'm less successful with predictions, but here's how I hope it will play out -- with the USGA listening to the tour pros and the club pros and scuttling the proposed rule change. They asked for comment, and they got it. There's no point in turning this into a grand schism that undermines the game.
Greg Stoda, sports columnist, Palm Beach Post: It's difficult to fool Bamberger, and the Tour's response was predictable. The guys who don't anchor don't seem appreciably bothered by the guys who do, so Finchem just decided to leave well enough alone. And probably will do so for the long term.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The USGA has the game's soul in mind here. The PGA Tour, understandably, cares about fairness to those who are using it and matters of the wallet, too. As Finchem said today, and said it well, these are matters of opinion. I believe they are tests of one's golf orthodoxy. I think you should swing the club, as our forebears did.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: I'm in the camp that believes anchored putting doesn't offer a clear-cut advantage. My guess is that, as Bamberger wrote, without the Tour's support, the USGA and R&A may lose this one, and anchoring is here to stay. Fine by me.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The tour is protecting its property, that is, its star players who use anchored putting. This opposition, plus the PGA of America's anti-ban position, will have to make the USGA and R&A reconsider whether the ban is doable. Maybe the USGA is about to realize that golf traditionalists are a small, outnumbered and possibly out-of-touch minority ... nahhh.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: The anchored putter debate has turned into a power struggle over who controls the game. The USGA and R&A should call the PGA Tour's bluff: some players might complain, but the Tour will abide by the ban. Tim Finchem will never allow a situation where his players could be called cheats. Incidentally, this whole situation is not helping golf dispel its image as a game for doddering twits.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It's a sad day. The blue coats have made mistakes but their motivation has always been to protect the game. All Finchem cares about is protecting the Porsche money of a couple dozen yippy journeymen. This is a troubling precedent and, much like the Citizens United court decision, its ugly impact will only become more obvious over time.
Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com There's nothing surprising in the Tour's stance. Finchem is employed by the players to represent their interests, and as Gary Van Sickle pointed out earlier this week, many Tour players don't like blue-blazered amateurs deciding on the tools of their livelihood. Expecting any other reaction from the Tour is akin to expecting the Teamsters to rise up against overtime. That said, the USGA and R&A seem to be in this one for the long war. Trial lawyers are the only happy constituency. If only the various bodies in this spat were as eager to deal with slow play, which has much more of a detrimental impact on the game for most of us.
Stephanie Wei, WeiUnderPar.com: I think the Tour is more concerned with its own self-interest than what's best for the game. How is this going to play out? USGA holds strong in language before deciding to 'revisit' the issue in the next four-year rule period…it quietly fades into the background and eventually out of thoughts/minds completely. I hope that's not what happens, but the other option is one that will also get messy: bifurcation of the rules.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: In this case the USGA will be helped by its four-year Rules of Golf cycle, because by 2016--when the ban was supposed to take effect--the anchoring issue will have lost a lot of its sizzle and it will be possible for the USGA and R&A to quietly abandon the proposed change without losing their authority. I suspect that's what will happen.