Tiger Woods, in the wake of an all-hands-on-deck meeting of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council on Monday, seemed to ease up on his previous strong support for a ban on the anchored putting stroke.
The world No. 2, speaking with the press ahead of Wednesday’s first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, did not come out in favor of a putting method that makes traditionalists gag on their persimmon drivers. But he was not as strident as he has been in the past when the issue arose.
“Well, I understand if we go either way,” Woods responded Tuesday to a question about whether he would be disappointed if the tour bucked the USGA’s proposed prohibition on anchoring. “We put in local rules every week, and this may or may not be a local rule, but we'll see what happens.”
In advance of writing an official response to the USGA about its plan to ban the stroke used by three of the last five major champions, tour commissioner Tim Finchem held a conference call with a majority of his 16-member PAC and then another with the policy board. The 90-day period for comments about the proposal expires at the end of February with the edict expected to take effect in 2016, though the tour could decide to implement its own mandate.
Woods’ long-time Ryder and Presidents Cup teammate Steve Stricker has been one of the most accurate putters in the game as well as a staunch advocate of the ban. The 12-time tour winner did a more abrupt about-face on the issue than Woods.
“I’m really not for the long putter, but I’m really not for the change either,” he said a day after Finchem’s confabs. “I just think the timing is bad and at a point in time when we really don’t need to be messing around with it. Our game out here on tour is pretty strong.”
Stricker also mentioned the possibility of a local rule governing the use of the anchored stroke, though playing under different sets of regulations could wreak havoc for players able to employ the stroke on tour but not in USGA competitions such as the U.S. and British Opens.
''I don't know if that's going to happen; don't even know if the USGA is going to go ahead with the rule change,'' said Stricker, who likened the allowance of the stroke to other “hard card” rules like preferred lies on wet fairway, which the USGA forbids. ''But I can see the tour adopting the rule saying that it's okay for players to use a long putter.''
Then there’s the European Tour, which the USGA’s counterpart, the R&A, governs. If the two organizations diverge on how to treat belly putters, the same chaos could ensue.
Such a situation “would be pretty weird,” conceded Stricker. “And for those players to try to make that change is going to be pretty tough on them.”
For Stricker, who said he was “swayed” by data he reviewed over the past few months, the timing of the proposed ban was suspect.
'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,” he 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.”