The U.S. PGA Tour said it opposes the proposed ban on anchored strokes by golf’s rule makers, yielding the possibility that events on the world’s richest circuit could eventually have different rules for putting than major championships such as the U.S. and British Opens.
The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, targeting changes in putting, said Nov. 28 that they’d consider input from others in the sport before deciding in April or May whether to prevent golfers from making strokes with a club anchored to their bodies.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said yesterday that the tour’s Player Advisory Council researched the issue and informed the USGA and R&A that a ban wouldn’t be in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour.
“The essential thread that went through the thinking of the players and our board of directors and others that looked at this was the absence of data or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring,” Finchem said at a news conference. “Given the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, there was no overriding reason to go down that road.”
A stroke in which the putter’s butt-end is rested against a player’s body to create a pendulum-like swing has been used by the winners of three of golf’s past five major tournaments.
While the clubs -- including long-handled and so-called belly putters -- wouldn’t be banned, their intended method of use would be under the rule proposed to take effect in 2016.
Finchem said that the PGA Tour has worked with the USGA on a range of issues over the past 20 years and the debate about anchored putting strokes won’t cause a rift between the organizations.
“We hold the USGA in the 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.”
Finchem said he hasn’t spent much time “worrying” about whether PGA Tour events could have different rules than the U.S. Open, which is run by the USGA, or the British Open, which is organized by the R&A. The U.S. Open is the second of golf’s four annual majors, preceded by the Masters Tournament and followed by the British Open and PGA Championship.
“Our regulations provide that we will follow the rules as promulgated by the USGA,” he said. “However, we retain the right not to in certain instances if we see fit.”
The USGA said yesterday in a statement that it will continue to listen to varying points of view during its 90-day comment period set to conclude this week. The organization said its position remains to “clarify and preserve the traditional and essential nature of the golf stroke.”
Belly anchored putters have been around for two decades, although their use had been mostly limited to players on the 50- and-over senior tours. Their popularity has increased among junior golfers and PGA Tour players in recent years. In 2012, 15 percent of professional golfers used anchored putters, up from 6 percent from 2006 through 2010, the USGA and R&A said.
“An awful lot of amateurs today use anchoring and a number of players on the PGA Tour who have grown up with a focus on perfecting the anchoring method did so after the USGA on multiple occasions approved the method years ago,” Finchem said. “For us to join in supporting a ban we think as a direction is unfair to both groups of individuals.”
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