US PGA to obey anchored putting ban
Tour seeks temporary reprieve for amateurs, amid worries they may quit the game otherwise
The US PGA Tour will follow a new rule that bans the anchored putting stroke used by four of the last six major champions, but will ask for a temporary reprieve for those who play the game for fun.
The announcement after a tour board meeting is the final piece of confirmation from a major golf organisation for Rule 14-1b, which will take effect on January 1, 2016 when the next Rules of Golf is published. The rule makes it illegal for players to attach the end of the club to their body to make a stroke.
Adam Scott used a long putter held against his chest when he won the Masters. Ernie Els (British Open) and Webb Simpson (US Open) used a belly putter last year. Keegan Bradley in the 2011 US PGA Championship was the first major champion with a belly putter.
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and US Golf Association proposed the new rule in November and allowed for a three-month comment period. It formally adopted the rule in May.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in February the tour was opposed to the new rule because there were no data to suggest an advantage and no "overriding reason to go down that road". The tour's opinion was shaped by a players-only meeting that month.
"In making its decision, the policy board recognised that there are still varying opinions among our membership, but ultimately concluded that while it is an important issue, a ban on anchored strokes would not fundamentally affect a strong presentation of our competitions or the overall success of the PGA Tour," Finchem said.
"The board also was of the opinion that having a single set of rules ... applicable to all professional competitions worldwide was desirable and would avoid confusion."
The decision to go along was not a surprise. The common ground by all sides was the importance of golf being played under one fundamental set of rules, as has been the case for hundreds of years.
The wrinkle that came out of the tour's meeting was asking the R&A and USGA to give amateurs more time to adjust away from the anchored stroke. PGA of America president Ted Bishop was among those concerned that banning the stroke used for long putters would force too many people to quit the game out of frustration, at a time when golf is worried about decreasing participation.
"The policy board continues to believe that extending the time period the ban would go into effect for amateurs would be beneficial for golf participation and the overall health of the game," Finchem said.
Finchem cited the USGA's changing of the groove configuration for irons in 2008. It was effective for elite play in 2010, but does not apply to recreational play until 2014.
However, the decision on grooves was an equipment issue. Anchoring is a change in the actual rules of golf. For the USGA and R&A, which set the rules for the 600-year-old game, to allow amateurs more time to use anchored strokes would create two sets of rules.
The PGA of America also said it would follow the new rule, while expressing concern about amateurs. "We continue to feel strongly that the amateur player needs a longer period of adjustment to this rule," Bishop said.
Neither Finchem nor Bishop recommended a date for amateurs to follow the rule.