In an extraordinary upstaging of his own event playing out on another network, commissioner Tim Finchem appeared on Golf Channel Sunday afternoon to declare the PGA Tour’s opposition to the USGA’s proposed ban on anchored putting.
PGA Tour members "did not think that banning anchoring was in the best interests of golf or the PGA Tour," Finchem said in a press conference as NBC aired the final round of the WGC-Match Play Championship.
With the 90-day comment period on the proposal set to end on February 28, here’s what the commish had to say following meetings earlier this week with his Players Advisory Council and the Tour Policy Board:
"There are a number of factors here, a number of details, a number of issues, but I think the essential thread that went through the thinking of the players and our board directors and others that looked at this was that, in the absence of data or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring, and given the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, that there was no overriding reason to go down that road.
"Recognizing...that an awful lot of amateurs today use anchoring...and a number of players on the PGA Tour who have grown up with a focus on perfecting the anchoring method did so after the USGA on multiple occasions approved the method years ago and that for us to join in supporting a ban we think... is unfair to both groups of individuals."
Finchem noted that timing was an issue in his tour’s consideration. He also downplayed any type of riff between the PGA Tour and PGA of America (which came out early on in opposition to the proposed prohibition on the stroke employed by users of long putters) and the United States’ rules-making body.
"I read some things that would suggest that this is kind of a donnybrook between the PGA of American and the PGA Tour on one side and the USGA on the other," Finchem said. "That’s not really, I think, correct.
"The USGA did, on multiple occasions, look at this and come to one conclusion. Twenty-five or 30 years later now they’ve come to another conclusion at least tentatively. They’ve asked us to give our comments; all we’re doing at this point is saying this is our opinion.
"We have worked with the USGA over the last 20 years on a wide range of rules issues....we worked together on the grooves issues, we worked together on capping the ball after it took off in 2000, we have partnered with the USGA on the creation of the World Golf Foundation, the world rankings board, the International Federation of PGA Tours to some extent, certainly the international Olympics effort....None of this debate over this particular issue’s going to change any of that....I continue to hope that regardless of where this matter ends up that it gets there after a process that is good-natured, open, and not contrary or divisive....We hold the USGA in the highest regard as a key part of the game of golf and we don’t intend to denigrate that position in any way whatsoever.
"It’s just on this issue we think if they were to move forward they would be making a mistake," said Finchem, who declined to state whether the tour would institute its own rule if the USGA went ahead with the ban.
"I don’t know, because we have carefully and intentionally, at this point, avoided getting into a discussion about that issue....Our regulations provide that we will follow the rules as promulgated by the USGA, provided, however, we retain the right not to in certain instances as we see fit.
"But we have not even begun that discussion," Finchem added. "All we’ve done is done what we were asked to do, which is to give them our best input and advice on that particular initiative. That’s a different question and it would be speculative for me to guess where that might come out."
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