Rude: No question USGA needs to re-think anchoring ban

Ernie Els is one of three players to win a major with the anchored putter, coming last July at the Open Championship.

Ernie Els is one of three players to win a major with the anchored putter, coming last July at the Open Championship.

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Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.

One would think that there’s powerful momentum opposing the U.S. Golf Association’s proposed ban on anchoring long and belly putters. After all, the PGA Tour, PGA of America and National Golf Course Owners Association in recent days have expressed their dissent.

Now that the 90-day comment period is closing Thursday, the question is whether such strong voices will be enough to prompt the USGA to change its mind before acting this spring.

Your guess is as good as mine. The hope here is that it will listen to those corners and continue to allow anchoring for the sake of the game’s enjoyment and growth.

The debate comes at a time when there is no statistical evidence that anchoring gives a competitive advantage. Three players in the game’s history have won major championships while anchoring putters. That’s a drop in the sea. The Anchors Away fuss, though, comes because of three of the last five have anchored.

The problem with the proposed ban is that it seems to focus on a few touring pros instead of the 25 million or so Americans who supposedly play golf recreationally. One need not channel Professor Backwards to sense twisted logic.

Golf doesn’t need to drive more people away from the game; it needs to attract. The USGA doesn’t need to divide; it needs to include. And certainly golf doesn’t need to be harder.

PGA of America president Ted Bishop estimated that at least 75-85 percent of PGA members support anchoring. An estimated 80 percent of the Tour Player Advisory Council feels the same way, as do all four players on the Policy Board.

Frankly, I’m surprised we’re even talking about the issue. If anchoring were such an advantage over the past three decades, why wouldn’t everybody do it? Where’s the compelling reason for change?

The bigger picture involves potential questioning of the USGA’s authority if anchoring is indeed outlawed. Steve Stricker, a player director on the Tour policy board, said he could foresee the Tour adopting a rule that allows anchoring. Similarly, Bishop said he would expect numerous PGA professionals to disregard a ban and make a local rule.

Numerous Tour players have shifted their opinion on this topic in recent months. Now it’s the USGA’s turn.

• Matt Kuchar smiles beneath those red cheeks when he has a bad day. Sunday, though, he had 1.5 million reasons to flash the pearly whites extra wide after winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Last May, he had 1.7 million reasons to do so after winning the Players.

Meet golf’s new hybrid of a cash cow with a happy yellow emoji on the face.

• Kuchar not only collects cash in large quantities, he collects top-10 finishes. Remarkably, thanks to a swing overhaul, he has 32 of them since the start of the 2010 season, three more than the next best, by Luke Donald.

I’m not sure what Kuchar pays his instructor, but I’m wondering if it’s enough.

• Almost hit a deer while driving the other night. It happened so quickly, I’m not sure whether the deer had antlers, much less spray.

• My lay studies show that people prone to short attention spans and distraction tend to focus better in 18-hole match play than 72-hole medal. Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter would appear to be poster boys.

• The Tucson, Ariz., area may have had a couple of snowstorms last Wednesday that disrupted the WGC Match Play first two days, but that doesn’t mean the tournament is going anywhere. Accenture, title sponsor since the event's inception in 1999, loves it there – the amenities, the Ritz-Carlton hotel, normally the weather, everything but the heavyweight upsets in early rounds.

Accenture, which entertained some 750 clients and employees last week, is on board through a contract ending in 2014. It certainly would like to stay at Dove Mountain in Marana thereafter if it renews yet again.

• Nicolas Colsaerts, the Belgian Bomber, slowly is developing a game that matches his playful personality. He used to party until dawn. Now he looks like a guy who could party after winning a major.

• My colleague Alistair Tait somehow wrote that Americans aren’t into match play. Next time I see him, I’ll explain that the $5 Nassau is something of a runaway train at courses in the States.

Come to think of it, I can’t recall ever not playing a match.

• Rory McIlroy missed the cut in his first start of the year and then went 4 over par on the first seven holes in losing in the Match Play first round. Forget about the suspense leading up to the USGA decision on anchoring. Golf is waiting to see someone resembling the kid who won a couple of majors by eight shots in 2011-12.

Rory, call home.

• You might say Americans like the Tour’s West Coast Swing. U.S.-born players have won the first eight tournaments of the year. Last year Yanks claimed the first nine before Northern Ireland’s McIlroy won the Honda Classic.

Seems the death of American golf has been greatly exaggerated.

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