SEA ISLAND, Ga. – Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s executive director, appeared before the PGA Tour Policy Board Oct. 17 with a sales pitch: an anticipated ban on the “anchored” stroke.
Davis was here to sell the idea of banning anchoring, an initiative that the R&A and the USGA, golf’s governing bodies, are expected to announce soon. With Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA), Webb Simpson (2012 U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (2012 Open Championship) having won major championships with long putters, the anchored stroke has become one of the hottest issues in golf.
Hence, Davis’ appearance Monday during the McGladrey Classic at the year’s final board meeting.
“What he was trying to do was to get us on board with them,” said Paul Goydos, a Policy Board member.
Phone messages left with Davis were not immediately returned. Joe Goode, a USGA spokesman, would not confirm the reason for Davis’ attendance.
Davis’ appearance before the Policy Board indicates the USGA expects opposition when it makes an announcement, which the association has said would be by the end of the year.
According to Goydos, Davis’ presentation indicated that the USGA has received overwhelming support in letters and e-mails from the general public to ban anchoring. Davis Love III, a Sea Island resident and the recent Ryder Cup captain, expects a different sentiment from the Tour’s rank and file.
“I would be concerned if I was them because you’ve got a bunch of guys that are going to want to fight it,” Love said. “Not the Tour but the players individually – a bunch of players that aren’t going to like it.”
Davis told the Policy Board that any rule change would not be because of a competitive advantage with the stroke and would be made to address the perception about how the game should be played.
Put another way, there is no empirical or statistical evidence to prove that a player using the anchoring stroke and a long putter has an advantage over a player using a traditional-length putter. The USGA just doesn’t like the way it looks.
Of course, none of the decision makers at the USGA plays golf professionally, and if they did ask the professionals, they might have to take a step back.
“It’s good for some people,” said Stewart Cink, who has used a belly putter for seven years. “It’s not good for some people. It’s just like a driver with 10 degrees’ loft is good for some people but not for others. It’s a piece of equipment. I don’t think it’s a big problem.”
But Jim Furyk, Goydos and Love – all Policy Board members who heard Davis’ presentation – think the USGA already has decided and will make its pronouncement after a meeting that Davis said would occur in March.
If the verdict is to ban anchoring in 2016, then Goydos thinks other issues – foremost, integrity – will emerge.
“If a player who has played with a belly putter decides to switch to a regular putter in 2014 and plays poorly, they will be looked at as a player that has cheated before,” Goydos said.
Davis counters by noting that Bobby Jones and Sam Snead used equipment and strokes eventually banned, but Goydos dismisses that point.
“That was a different world, 1930 to 2013,” Goydos said. “The USGA has a responsibility to make sure (the players) are not labeled cheaters.”