USGA/R&A won’t rush “polarizing” anchoring decision

Mike Ehrmann

Calling its proposed ban on the anchored putting stroke “particularly sensitive” in the United States and a “polarizing” issue overall, the Royal & Ancient said Friday it would consider carefully the responses it has received before enacting a rule change.

With the European Tour and Ladies European Tour backing the proposal announced in November by the R&A and its U.S. counterpart, the USGA, and the PGA Tour opposing it, the American regulatory association faces a tougher task in its push to outlaw the way three of the last five major championship winners use their long putters.

The 90-day period for interested parties to respond to the proposal ended Thursday, four days after PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem appeared on national television to denounce the scheme. The motion to regulate anchoring has the support of 14-time major champ Tiger Woods and world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, among others, while 2011 PGA champ Keegan Bradley and reigning British Open titleholder Ernie Els are among those who are vociferously in the opposing camp.

In the meantime, Geoff Shackleford noted that the Sunshine Tour (South Africa) had joined with all European tours in backing the prohibition, and that the LPGA (which has not experienced the rash of belly-putter users that the men’s tour has) would likely jump on board as well.

Rule 14-1b would go into effect in 2016, but both the USGA and R&A said they would not rush to judgment.

“Anchoring has been a polarizing issue in our sport and despite having weighed the matter thoroughly before making the proposal, we believed it was important to give stakeholders in the game the opportunity to air their views,” the R&A said in a statement.

"We note that this matter has proved particularly sensitive in the United States, while the proposed Rule change has been received more favorably across the international golfing community. As we have throughout this process, we will work closely with the USGA in moving towards a final resolution."

Terming the debate “constructive” and “informative,” the USGA also said it would take its time in reaching a decision.

“For well over a year, the golf community has engaged in a healthy and spirited discussion about anchoring, as well as other important issues confronting the game,” according to the USGA. “Throughout this period, we have worked to explain the intent of Rule 14-1b, which aims to clarify and preserve the traditional and essential nature of the golf stroke that has helped to make golf a unique and enjoyable game of skill and challenge for centuries.

“As the comment period comes to a close, we will continue to review and evaluate the feedback that we have received,” the statement added. “As we have throughout this process, we will continue to confer with the R&A in our work to reach a final resolution on this matter.”

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