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Anchors Aweigh

On Sunday afternoon, PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem, announced that the PGA Tour opposed the proposed ban on ‘Anchoring’ putters.

“I think the essential thread that went through the thinking of the players … was that in the absence of data or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring, and given the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, that there is no overriding reason to go down that road,” Finchem said.

When asked what would happen if the USGA and the R&A upheld the proposed ban by their 3-month deadline (today, February 28), the Commissioner said:

“I haven’t spent much time worrying about that. That would be speculation, and I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve thought more about some areas of bifurcation, whether it would work or not. But I think that the focus here ought to be, if possible, to go down the same road, everybody go down the same road on anchoring, and that’s certainly where we are right now. We just hope they take our view on it. We’ll see.”

In addition to Finchem’s statements, the PGA of America (the Professional Golf Association of America) also announced that they were against the ban.

The PGA Tour is made of golf professionals who play golf for a living. They are a different entity to the PGA of America members who are the men and women golf professionals who help promote and maintain the game. They are the professionals that you see every time that you are at your Club or favorite course.

What one has to understand is that the R&A (the Royal and Ancient) who govern the Rules of Golf for most of the golf world and the USGA (United States Golf Association) who govern the Rules for the Americas are composed of amateur golfers. Distinguished golfers and persons all, but they are both Amateur bodies who are largely comprised of very dedicated volunteers.

So, 4 bodies who all have pivotal roles in Golf. And two evenly divided sides.

Finchem would offer an “olive branch” to attempt to downplay any controversy when he would add that   “We hold the USGA in highest regard as a key part of the game of golf,” Finchem said. “We don’t attempt to denigrate that position in any way whatsoever. It’s just on this issue, we think if they were to move forward they would be making a mistake.”

But it would seem that the battle lines have been drawn.

There is merit to both sides of the argument. In the art of “swinging” a golf club it is not supposed to be attached to any part of your body except your hands. A ‘purist’ would understandably defend this position. The problem lies with the fact that these types of putters and methods (anchoring) of putting HAVE been allowed for the last 25 years.

Because of that a great many young players (professionals and amateurs alike) have learned to play the game, exclusively using these putters in this manner of making a stroke. Two of the game’s brightest young stars Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA Championship winner) and Webb Simpson (2012 US Open Champion) anchor putters as does 2012 British Open Champion, Ernie Els.

Tim Finchem is the Commissioner of the PGA Tour but he answers to the 15 member PGA Policy Board, which is made up of PGA Tour players. Essentially, he does their bidding. The Board vote was 13-2 in favor of opposing the ban. The Tour’s position is transparently obvious; they don’t want to lose some of their star players.

There has been a sentiment most voiced in the professional ranks that professionals should be able to govern their own Rules. Perhaps this is a preamble to that happening but we hope not.

In the interest of the Game, which should always be the single discerning factor as decisions of this magnitude are made, we hope that an amicable resolution can be found.