Rude: PGA, Tour's proposal a sensible compromise
Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.
The PGA Tour and PGA of America made a sensible compromise proposal, not to mention a savvy public relations move, on Monday when asking that the U.S. Golf Association delay the ban on anchored putting several years for recreational players.
The two organizations pointed out that there is precedent, that the USGA in 2008 followed a similar course regarding new groove configurations on golf clubs – 2010 for elite play but 2024 for recreational golfers.
The USGA has yet to comment but is expected to respond soon. Let’s hope that no news so far is good news, that America’s rules-making body will finally just say yes.
As Joe Ogilvie, a member of the Tour’s Player Advisory Council, tweeted the other day, “For amateurs over 50 (the anchor-ban) rule should be 3024 not 2024. Zero downside to grandpa making a few 3-footers.”
Paul Goydos, a player director on the nine-man Tour policy board, said as much after the board, as well as PGA of America, voted to follow the USGA anchor ban, effective 2016.
“What’s the rush about the 12-handicapper changing?” Goydos said. “He doesn’t have the same amount of time to get ready because we practice every day and he plays twice a month or so. So why not move it back? This is 27,000 club pros and the whole PGA Tour asking.
“I get that they don’t want guys anchoring to win majors. But do we really want to force these (recreational) guys to stop? What’s the gain? If we push it to 2024, how does that hurt the game?”
PGA president Ted Bishop, a member of the Tour board, said his membership is emphatic that the recreational player not be affected – for years if not forever. Bishop related the story about an 80-year-old member at Maidstone on Long Island who anchors his putter because of tremors.
“You look at that player and wonder how many more years he has left to play,” Bishop said. “Why would you rob him of enjoyment of what he has left? And there are a ton of stories like that.”
• Is PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem a politician? Only to the core.
Initially he sided with the USGA on the anchor ban proposal, which was announced in November. You could say he misread his membership at that point. Then, after his players expressed they didn’t like the idea in a January meeting, he went on national television in February and said the Tour disagreed with the proposed ban.
Then he and his board decided Monday to abide by the ban for the sake of playing by one set of rules. But in the first paragraph of a statement, he said the Tour has strongly recommended the recreational player not be prohibited from anchoring for several more years.
In announcing the Tour’s compliance, Finchem made it clear that he lobbied to successfully get a seat at the initial table the next time the USGA proposes a major change and that the Tour may not go along if it doesn’t see fit.
“It is not inconceivable that there may come a time in the future when the policy board determines that a rule adopted by the USGA, including in the area of equipment, may not be in the (Tour’s) best interests and that a local rule eliminating or modifying such a USGA rule may be appropriate,” Finchem said. “Having said that, we have been assured by the USGA that as we move forward we will have an open and effective communication process on a number of levels with (USGA) decision makers.”
As Goydos said, “Tim has the USGA’s attention that we need more transparency on how decisions are made rather than having them sprung on us.”
In other words, Finchem chose to pick his battles. He gave in on the anchoring ban in order to have a chip later in a bigger battle. And that major battle very likely could involve the golf ball and how far it travels for elite players.
That’s big stuff. A small percentage of golfers anchor their putters. On the other hand, last we checked, everybody uses a golf ball.
Many seem to think the USGA and R&A flexed its muscles on the much smaller issue of anchoring as a prelude to dealing with the monster topic that is the ball. Any change to the ball (read: rollback) would make this latest episode seem like a pimple on an elephant.
“Our PGA officers are concerned that the anchoring ban was a Trojan horse, so to speak, for other rules decisions like the rollback of the golf ball,” said Bishop, the PGA president. “And we are strongly opposed to a rollback because we don’t see how hitting it shorter would help the enjoyment and speed of the game.”
Yes, the ball goes too far for elite bombers, such as Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. Jack Nicklaus has been screaming about that for decades. We just had a U.S. Open in which protagonist Phil Mickelson, for the second Open in five years, did not carry a driver. In winning the Players, Tiger Woods talked about his 5-wood shots traveled close to 300 yards.
On the other side, the ball hardly goes too far for the average recreational golfer. Joe Six Pack hardly wants a governor on his ball. So to the powers and scientists that be, we say that if you so dare, good luck in solving that Rubik’s Cube and handling the feedback from all corners.
• Oh, and by the way, some good golf has been played lately in the shadows of the board rooms. Inbee Park just won her third consecutive major title and has a chance to win all five majors on the LPGA tour and achieve, as one scribe put it, the Impregnable Polygon.
On the men’s side, teenage phenom Jordan Spieth has a chance to make some history of his own. Spieth on Sunday racked up his fifth top-10 finish of the season and has locked up a Tour card for next year after starting 2013 with no status.
More immediate, he has a chance to do something the likes of Gene Sarazen, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy never did: Win on Tour as a teenager. Those heavyweights won at 20.
Three players in Tour history have won at 19, none since Ralph Guldahl in 1931. Considering how well he’s playing and that he’s a five-tool player, Spieth would seem to have a chance. But he had better get busy fast.
He turns 20 on July 27.