Tiger Woods, with golf’s governing bodies expected on Tuesday to announce they will outlaw the anchored putting stroke, asked the PGA Tour to enact an immediate ban on the way four of the last six major champions wield their long flat sticks.
“Well, I hope they [the USGA and R&A] go with the ban,” Woods told reporters Monday during media day for next month’s AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. “As far as the PGA Tour, I hope they do it as soon as possible to be honest with you. I've always said that.”
Woods and other notables like second-ranked Rory McIlroy and Arnold Palmer have been outspoken in their support of the ban, which golf’s regulators proposed in November.
“That's something that I've said, that anchoring should not be a part of the game,” Woods said. “It should be mandatory to have to swing all 14 clubs.”
The USGA and R&A hope to end some six months of often heated debate on the subject on Tuesday morning when they are likely, during concurrent news conferences in the U.S. and England, to cement their controversial decision to enact a ban in 2016.
In announcing the proposal last year, rules-makers averred that affixing putters to any parts of golfers’ bodies inhibited the “skill and challenge” that was “integral to the traditions of the game.” During the 90-day comment period following the announcement, most professional tours touted their support for the ban, while the PGA Tour and PGA of America were vociferous opponents.
At the time of the November announcement, three of the previous five major championships had gone to players using belly putters -- Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA Championship), Webb Simpson (2012 U.S. Open), and Ernie Els (2012 British Open). Since then, Adam Scott jammed his long putter into his sternum and walked away with last month’s Masters.
The proposal has split golfers into opposing camps -- with Woods, McIlroy, et al, on one side, and Bradley, Scott, Els, and other anchorers on the other. Some in the belly brigade have hinted that lawsuits could follow the USGA’s ban, which, as of the November announcement, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
While Woods on Monday lobbied his tour to fall in line with the anticipated ban, commissioner Tim Finchem recently played his eventual hand close to the vest.
"We haven't even discussed internally in our organization what our response will be to their completion of their process until they complete it," Finchem said in a news conference prior to the recent Players Championship.
"We were asked our views. We made those views known to the USGA and the R&A, and they have to now complete their process,” said Finchem, who stated his opposition to an anchoring prohibition during the final round of February's match play championship. "When they complete it, then we'll turn around and have a conversation with our players and our board about the position we should take at that point. Until we get there, we're not going to speculate on it."
Regardless of what Finchem finally decides, the PGA of America's staunch opposition to a ban could result in separate rules for professionals and amateurs. “Bifurcation seems destined if Rule 14-1b is implemented,” PGA president Ted Bishop said earlier this year.
In statements issued Friday, the USGA and R&A said they would "announce final action on proposed changes to the Rules of Golf" on Tuesday. Anyone who believes that viewing golf is like watching paint dry probably won’t want to tune in at 8 a.m. to Golf Channel, which will broadcast the USGA presser live. The USGA will also provide a live webcast of golf's version of The Decision.