Anchoring

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Jeff Rude
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.

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 ...

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European Tour CEO George O'Grady
European Tour CEO George O'Grady

The European Tour will not join forces with the PGA Tour and oppose the proposed anchoring ban suggested by the U.S. Golf Association and the R&A, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity at the London-based tour.

George O'Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, would not confirm his organization's position during an interview at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. However, he hasn't received nearly the level of opposition from his membership that his counterpart, Tim Finchem, has heard on the American tour.

"I've talked to our top players ... and ...

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Alex Miceli
Commissioner Tim Finchem publicly opposed the potential anchoring ban for the first time on Sunday.
Commissioner Tim Finchem publicly opposed the potential anchoring ban for the first time on Sunday.

The biggest volley yet in the anchoring debate came Sunday when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem opposed the ban on the anchored stroke proposed by the U.S. Golf Association and R&A.

In a letter sent to the USGA on Thursday, Finchem stated the Tour’s opposition to proposed Rule 14-1b, which would ban the anchored stroke commonly used with long or belly putters, beginning when the Rules of Golf are updated Jan. 1, 2016.

“Essentially where the PGA Tour came down was that they did not think that banning anchoring was in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour,” Finchem said in a news conference Sunday at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. “I would note that the PGA of America came to the same conclusion after consultation with their membership.”

In two meetings with the Player Advisory Council, first in January in San Diego during the Farmers Insurance Open and again last week on a Monday conference call, Finchem fielded players’ concerns about the proposed ban.

On that same Monday, the PGA Tour Policy Board met for the first time this year, and the four player members – Paul Goydos, Harrison Frazar, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker – opposed the ban.

“My opinion and a lot of players’ opinions changed because the ban wouldn’t be just for us but for everybody who plays the game,” Stricker said at the Match Play.

Stricker, No. 16 in the Official World Golf Ranking, said many on Tour think the timing of the proposed ban is poor. On top of that, he said, there’s no evidence anchoring helps.

“We’re at a point in time in the game of golf that we’re trying to keep players, lure players into playing the game,” Stricker said. “A majority of the players feel that it only puts a negative spin on that, maybe detracts the local guy, the club member, the public player, whoever, from playing at times. And this rule has been good for 30 years.”

Coincidentally on Thursday, the PGA of America followed up its first letter, dated Nov. 26, against the proposed ban with a second communique outlining more specific opposition.

“In the sprit of the comment period, we felt it was necessary for the PGA of America to comment after formulating some additional opinions,” Ted Bishop, the PGA of America’s president, said from his home in Indiana. “While growth of the game is an issue, one of the biggest issues we see is how our club professionals will be forced to address the ban at their clubs around the country.”

What started as a proposed rule change has intensified into a showdown between golf heavyweights: the USGA in one corner versus the PGA Tour and PGA of America in the other. The outcome remains in doubt as the USGA and R&A’s 90-day comment period expires Feb. 28.

Finchem and Bishop nonetheless have expressed support for the USGA and its role as the game’s governing body in the U.S., yet both leaders continue to sprinkle the word “bifurcation” – different rules for touring pros and elite amateurs compared with recreational players – in interviews and written statements submitted to the USGA.

“I’ve thought more about some areas of bifurcation, whether it would work or not,” Finchem said. “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.”

The anchored stroke surged into prominence when it was used by three of the past five major champions: Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA), Webb Simpson (2012 U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (2012 Open Championship). The stroke is used by a small minority of touring pros and recreational players – less than 20 percent.

Though the issues might have seemed to be focused on the PGA Tour professional when the proposed anchoring ban was announced Nov. 28, Finchem in his comments and Bishop in his letter have outlined two main issues why the status quo should be maintained.

• 1. The absence of data or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring;

• 2. The amount of time that anchoring has been part of the game.

When the USGA and R&A announced the proposed ban, they conceded that the stroke doesn’t lend an unfair advantage. It simply fails to fit what the keepers of the game see as a proper stroke.

“In terms of comparing players who are using anchored strokes with players who are using conventional strokes, there is no compelling data to say one is better than the other,” said Peter Dawson, the R&A’s chief executive. “It’s an individual thing for individual players. But I emphasize the reason for proceeding with this rule change is not performance-related. It is about defining what is a golf stroke.”

Finchem and Bishop responded by invoking some of the game’s great administrators.

“As it relates to the USGA’s examination of anchoring a putter, highly respected USGA officials including P.J. Boatwright, Joe Dey and David Fay have analyzed it in the past and determined that it is an accepted method of putting,” Bishop said in his letter to the USGA. “Even (current USGA chief) Mike Davis a little more than a year ago publicly stated that anchoring was not problematic and not detrimental to the game.”

The late Dey was the USGA’s executive director from 1934 to 1968, the first commissioner of the PGA Tour (1969-74) and a captain of the R&A. The late Boatwright served as the USGA’s executive director of rules and competitions. Fay headed the USGA from 1989 to 2010.

Finchem also sought to counter a theory that many players turn to the anchored putting stroke because they struggle with the conventional approach.

“It’s a subjective thing,” Finchem said in an NBC interview during the Match Play. “I think, when it came out 30 years ago, that’s where it was viewed at. If you had the yips, go to anchoring. But Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson don’t have the yips. They grew up with that method. And one out of every five, or a little less than one out of every five plays it. Everybody on the PGA Tour has tried it. For some guys, it works; for some guys, it doesn’t.”

The other issue: decades of the anchoring stroke in use.

In the 1960s, when Sam Snead started putting with a croquet-style stroke, the Dey-led USGA moved quickly and banned it in 1967.

Finchem suggests that the USGA, on two separate occasions, formally reviewed the ...

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Alistair Tait

The British Professional Golfers’ Association will not resist the proposed ban on the anchoring stroke, chief executive Sandy Jones told Golfweek.

“We did not survey our membership like the PGA of America, but we have discussed it at board level,” Jones said. “Our view was that (we) don’t think it makes much difference to the growth of the game in the United Kingdom if the stroke is banned.”

Long or belly putters are not as prevalent in the United Kingdom as they are in the United States. As a result, Jones does not think a ban on the anchoring ...

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Categories: For Your Game, Anchoring
Adam Schupak
The Boccieri Golf Heavy Putter K4-M.
The Boccieri Golf Heavy Putter K4-M.

While the U.S. Golf Association and R&A are in the midst of what they call a 90-day period of feedback regarding the proposed anchoring ban (Rule 14-1b), the damage to sales of long and belly putters already has been done.

“What’s less than a screeching halt?” said David Lowe, vice president of product development and sourcing for retailer Golfsmith International, when asked to describe the effect of the Nov. 28 announcement on sales.

Even though the rule wouldn’t go into effect until 2016 and the putters themselves still would be considered legal, at the PGA Merchandise ...

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Jeff Rude
Steve Stricker
Steve Stricker

MARANA, Ariz. – Count Steve Stricker, one of the four players on the PGA Tour Policy Board, among what he says is a majority and growing number of Tour players who oppose the proposed ban on putter anchoring.

The Tour will send a letter to the U.S. Golf Association and R&A by the end of the week, Stricker said Tuesday. A day earlier he participated in a pair of 45-minute conference calls – one for the 16-member Player Advisory Council, the other for the Policy Board – on the subject

“My opinion and a lot of players’ opinions changed because the ...

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February 19, 2013 | 11:37 a.m.

Course owners tell USGA not to oppose anchoring

Alex Miceli
Mike Davis
Mike Davis

The National Golf Course Owners Association has added its voice to the growing cry in the industry to oppose the ban on anchoring proposed by the U.S. Golf Association and R&A.

A day after the PGA Tour met to discuss the proposed ban, the NGCOA, which claims membership of 3,258 golf courses and 1,900 owners, made public Feb. 19 a letter submitted during the proposal's 90-day comment period, which ends Feb. 28.

In the statement addressed to USGA executive director Mike Davis and signed by NGCOA chief executive Michael Hughes, the association said it is ...

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Alex Miceli
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem

TUCSON, Ariz. – Opposition to the proposed ban on the anchored stroke surfaced Monday night in two key meetings on the PGA Tour.

According to a source, more than 80 percent of participants on a Player Advisory Council conference call voiced a position against the recommendation by the U.S. Golf Association and the R&A to ban the stroke associated with long and belly putters. Golf's governing bodies have called for the ban to take effect with the next printing of the Rules of Golf, in 2016.

Members of the Tour's Policy Board hold similar views, according to ...

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February 18, 2013 | 2:19 p.m.

Q&A: John Solheim, chairman & CEO of Ping

Adam Schupak
John Solheim with his dog at his home in Phoenix, Ariz.
John Solheim with his dog at his home in Phoenix, Ariz.

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Few people have attended the PGA Merchandise Show as many times as Ping’s John Solheim. I always make a point of scheduling an appointment with him to gain his insight, perspective, and listen to his state of the industry. But this year marked a rare absence.

“It’s not that I didn’t want to be there,” Solheim said to me recently. “I participated in the (PGA Tour’s) Sony Hawaiian Open Pro-Am the week before. It is a family tradition. My dad started playing it in 1968. He went every year after that until I replaced ...

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Alex Miceli
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem

When the USGA and R&A jointly announced a proposed ban on anchoring, the game's governing bodies indicated they were open to comments for 90 days, ending Feb. 28.

Officials added that they didn't think there was any aspect of the proposal that they hadn't fully explored.

Put another way, they were going to ban the stroke most commonly associated with the long and anchored putters, and there was nothing that could sway them.

“We believe we have considered this issue from every angle," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said, "but given the wide-ranging interest in this subject, we would like to give stakeholders in the game the opportunity to put forward any new matters for consideration.”

That 90-day clock is about to strike midnight.

The PGA Tour has not taken a public position, but that is expected to change Monday when the Player Advisory Council and the Tour's Policy Board convene over the phone.

In nearly 19 years as Tour commissioner, Tim Finchem has proved masterful at guiding the board in his direction. Many players think Finchem opposes the ban and will seek their support to tell the USGA to withdraw the proposal or enlist the Tour and the PGA of America as equal partners in the discussion.

In the limited circumstance of both anchoring and bifurcation, Finchem will likely not have to do much convincing with a board that agrees to a large extent that the USGA has gone in the wrong direction.

Among the four players on the Policy Board – Harrison Frazar, Jim Furyk, Paul Goydos and Steve Stricker – Frazar and Furyk have or currently anchor their putters.

“I've used long putters; I've used belly putters; I've used short and regular; I've used ultra short with fat grips; I've used all of it,” Frazar said from his home in Texas. “And with the exception of helping me just simply get the ball in the hole from a foot-and-a-half, I didn't notice a whole lot of difference. It never really made me a better putter. So I'm hesitant to agree with them that it changes the way the game is played.”

Frazar says he is open-minded about the proposed ban but would ...

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PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem

SAN DIEGO – PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem addressed the media Wednesday morning to discuss the previous night’s players meeting and the Tour’s reaction to the proposed anchoring ban. The b-word, “bifurcation,” came up, and Finchem made it clear that he is not opposed to separate sets of rules for professionals and amateurs.

“Technically there is that possibility,” Finchem said. “However, it certainly wouldn’t be our objective. Our objective is to follow the rules and keep the rules together.

“Having said that, the whole question of bifurcation is always out there to be discussed. ... Personally, I think in ...

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Alex Miceli
Carl Pettersson
Carl Pettersson

KAPALUA, Hawaii – The belly/long-putter debate has not cooled since the announcement late last year that the U.S. Golf Association and R&A proposed a ban on the anchoring stroke.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Carl Pettersson, who has used a long putter for all 16 years of his professional career, objected strongly to the proposed ban, calling it a “witch hunt” and that it would be silly to outlaw a stroke that has been around for 40 years.

When asked to discuss the tentative ban, announced Nov. 28, Pettersson said Wednesday that he was unwilling to talk ...

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Golfweek Staff

As the calendar turns and we head into 2013, there are plenty of questions that face the golf world.

So we've attacked three prominent ones: Will Tiger Woods win a major in '13? Will Rory McIlroy win six or more times? Will anchoring ban be pushed ahead of schedule?

There are plenty of opinions on our staff, which can make for great office debate, but we wanted to keep you in the conversation. Comment below this story to tell us your predictions on these stories and we'll share our favorite ones in the coming days!

Without further adieu ...

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James Achenbach
John Solheim, the CEO of Ping, looks on during the singles matches on Day 3 of the 2011 Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle Golf Club on September 25, 2011.
John Solheim, the CEO of Ping, looks on during the singles matches on Day 3 of the 2011 Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle Golf Club on September 25, 2011.

PHOENIX – John Solheim doesn’t like the word bifurcation, but here’s how serious he is about increasing the enjoyment of golf for all players: The Ping chairman has applied for a United States patent outlining the use of an equipment rating formula to determine a golfer’s handicap.

In other words, different golfers would use different equipment. Their handicaps would then reflect the equipment they used, such as a longer ball or a hotter driver.

Although rulesmakers would label this as bifurcation – the existence of more than one set of rules – Solheim sees it as an effective way to ...

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Bradley S. Klein
Peter Bevacqua is the new CEO of the PGA of America.
Peter Bevacqua is the new CEO of the PGA of America.

NEW YORK -- Ted Bishop, the new president of the PGA of America, is in the middle of a whirlwind month.

No sooner did Bishop, the golf professional and general manager of The Legends Club in Franklin, Ind., become head of his profession’s 27,000-member trade association than he found himself in the middle of an industrywide debate about anchoring the long putter. Then, he had to conclude a search for a new CEO. Next up is naming the captain of the American Ryder Cup team – an announcement that will be made Thursday on NBC’s “Today Show.”

At an ...

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Recent Anchoring Videos

Video: Alex Miceli weighs in on anchoring proposal

Golfweek senior writer Alex Miceli offers his thoughts after Wednesday's press conference by the USGA and R&A.

Video: USGA, R&A explain proposed change

USGA, R&A explain proposed Rules change to prohibit anchored strokes.