A day after the PGA Tour decided to abide by the upcoming U.S. Golf Association ban on anchored putting strokes, the Boston lawyer representing nine players who anchor said none of his clients has expressed an intent to sue the Tour.
“That could change,” Harry L. Manion III told Golfweek on Tuesday. “I don’t know what they are going to ask me to do.”
The nine players, including Masters champion Adam Scott and Tour winners Carl Pettersson and Tim Clark, have retained Manion since January. The players are now “deciding what action, if any, to take next,” Manion said.
Any lawsuits would be filed individually and not as a group, Manion said, “because each golfer has his own view on what should be done.”
The basis for a suit, Manion said, would be “breach of fiduciary duty,” a legal duty to act solely in another party’s interests.
“The Tour owes its members a fiduciary duty of good faith and fair dealing,” Manion said. “The question is whether the Tour has breached it. We aren’t saying they have. But if you are looking at a lawsuit, that would be the soundest avenue to pursue.”
The nine players expected the Tour to follow the USGA even though they think the new rule (14-1b) against anchoring, scheduled to take effect in 2016, is “completely irrational and wrongheaded,” Manion said.
A player representative who asked that his name not be used said the Tour pros retained Manion to explore their options. But, like Manion, he said he didn’t think any of the players would sue.
Manion said his group was pleased the Tour’s Policy Board Monday didn’t decide to disallow anchoring earlier, such as at the start of the 2015-16 season. The Tour instead decided to follow the new ban to the letter, apparently in part for legal reasons.
“If we stop playing by USGA rules, that really opens it up to litigation,” said Paul Goydos, a player-director on the Policy Board.
The Tour and PGA of America on Monday also strongly recommended that the USGA consider pushing back the ban date for amateurs several years. Both organizations pointed out that the USGA in 2008 followed a similar course regarding new groove configurations on golf clubs, which took effect in 2010 for elite players but will not take effect until 2024 for recreational golfers.
That change, however, involved an equipment issue, whereas the anchoring ban involves a playing rule.
USGA executive director Mike Davis said his organization plans to respond to the Tour’s and PGA of America’s request in a statement by Wednesday.
The USGA and R&A jointly announced the proposed ban on anchored strokes in November 2012. Then, after a 90-day comment period, they announced May 21 that the ban would start Jan. 1, 2016.
The Tour and PGA were the leading organizations opposed to the ban, but they have chosen to follow the USGA largely because they do not want to get into the rules-making business.