PAC meets on anchoring with mixed results; bifurcation arises

Davis Love III

DUBLIN, Ohio – In the first official meeting since the USGA and R&A announced their final decision on Rule 14-1b (the ban on the anchored stroke), the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council gathered at Muirfield Village Golf Club on Tuesday.

During the 90-minute meeting in a conference room in the basement of the Muirfield Pavilion, players participated in person and by phone. Tour commissioner Tim Finchem apprised the players on what had occurred on the anchoring issue since the last meeting and then allowed players to weigh in with their concerns, opinions and thoughts.

The opinions were "very mixed," according to Doug LaBelle II, a PAC member who attended the meeting. “We left pretty undecided.”

Just three months ago in the desert outside of Tucson, Ariz., Finchem threw down the gantlet on the anchoring issue, going against the adoption of Rule 14-1b.

“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 on the weekend of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

At that time, Finchem said that PAC had met twice on the issue and that the PGA of America and the National Golf Course Owners Association was in support of the PGA Tour’s position.

Now three months later, it seems the PAC is unclear on a coherent position on anchoring.

According to one participant, some PAC members who were on the fence now seem to be going back to supporting the ban.

Anchoring on its own has unique issues: the potential for limiting high-profile players from competing as they have for years, potential litigation and how the Tour might be perceived if it goes against the anchoring ban.

“We’ve got a process we follow as a Tour, and we're going to let it play out,” said PAC member Bo Van Pelt. “I think that’s what you get with 144 guys. Everybody has a differing opinion.”

One of those opinions is to put the ban in play sooner than the USGA's January 2016 target.

“If you're a guy that anchors, you probably want to do it as long as you can,” Van Pelt said. “And some people probably want it to be that we don’t have to talk about it anymore as soon as possible.”

Van Pelt confirmed that some players would like to see anchoring banned at the start of the 2014 season, to get it behind them, but the list of positions on anchoring is lengthy.

Interestingly the subject of litigation came up, but was not much of a focus.

“I don’t think that’s what anybody’s worried about,” Van Pelt said. “We're just trying to do what best for the game.”

Davis Love III agreed.

“We kept asking that, and nobody seems concerned about lawsuits," he said. "It’s more about what’s good for the game down the road.”

A bigger issue that may make the anchoring ban moot is the widely held position that the PGA Tour should make its own rules, especially in light of the recent actions by the USGA.

“We had the groove thing that was a mess,” Love said of the 2010 change that limited the size of grooves in irons. “Wasted money, waste of time. We get more balls up and down now than we did before.”

Love went on to outline the other mistakes made by the USGA that have affected Tour players.

“The driver, that was screwed up and now we're into the putter thing,” Love said. “No matter if that’s right or wrong. The next thing they want to do is the golf ball and the driver thing again.”

Which ultimately begs one question, according to Love.

“So should someone else be in charge, or should they be in charge? We wouldn’t have gone through this groove thing if we were making the rules.”

Will the anchoring ban lead to two sets of rules in golf?

According to Love, there is a lot of sentiment for exactly that, to break away from the USGA rules and have the players make their own rules.

“Personally, I think in some situations bifurcation is OK,” Finchem said in January when asked about the Tour making its own rules. “I'm not so sure bifurcation is important in this particular case, but we're not at a point yet where I am opining on what we think we should do. I think we're in an information‑gathering process right now, and it would be premature for me to speculate on that. But technically, the answer to your question is, yes, it's possible.”

In the end the PAC provided no official recommendations on anchoring or the more drastic step of making its own rules, and will now wait for the PGA Tour policy board meeting at the Greenbrier in late June before the PAC addresses the question again.

- Jeff Rude contributed to his report

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