PGA Tour opposes ban on anchoring putter strokes, says Finchem

Tim Finchem
Getty Images
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem says there hasn't been enough evidence to show a competitive advantage gained by using a long putter or belly putter that is anchored against the body.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: Product Spotlight

Published: Sunday, February 24, 2013 | 4:44 p.m.

MARANA, Ariz. -- PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem threw a big wrinkle into the plan to outlaw the anchored putting stroke when he said Sunday the tour opposed the ban because there was not enough evidence to suggest players had an advantage by using a long putter.

"We hold the USGA in highest regard as a key part of the game of golf," Finchem said. "We don't attempt 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."

The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club announced Nov. 28 a proposed rule that would prohibit players from anchoring the club to their body, the method used for belly putters and broom-handled putters that are pressed against the chest.

Three of the last five major champions used a belly putter.

The governing bodies are nearing the end of a 90-day comment period before deciding whether to adopt the rule, which would not take effect until 2016. Finchem has been meeting with his players the last few months, with USGA Executive Director Mike Davis presenting the rule to a player meeting in San Diego last week. Finchem sent a letter to the USGA and R&A on Friday to state the tour's position.

The PGA of America also opposes the ban.

"I think the essential thread that went through the thinking of the players ... 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 is no overriding reason to go down that road," Finchem said.

The long putter has become a polarizing issue in recent years, even though it has been around for the last four decades.

The USGA and R&A said they wanted to ban the anchored stroke because they felt it took too much skill out of the game. Its goal was to define the golf stroke as the club moving freely through the entire swing. They conceded in November there was no empirical data, only a recent spike in more players using long putters.

Finchem wanted to make clear that the PGA Tour was not in a "donnybrook" with the USGA over who sets the rules. Rather, he was responding to its request for comment. Even so, it puts the USGA in a position of going through with the ban or backing down because the PGA Tour opposes it.

Finchem has said over the last month that while slightly different rules for the PGA Tour are acceptable, he did not think anchoring would be one of them. And he didn't indicate which direction the tour would go if the USGA followed through with the ban.

"I haven't spent much time worrying about that," Finchem said. "That would be speculation, and I haven't really thought about it. I've thought more about some areas of bifurcation, whether it would work or not. But I think that the focus here ought to be, if possible, to go down the same road, everybody go down the same road on anchoring, and that's certainly where we are right now.

"We just hope they take our view on it," he said. "We'll see."

The USGA issued a statement that it is listening to "many productive conversations across the golf community" on the proposed rule.

"As we consider the various perspectives on anchoring, it has always been our position that Rule 14-1b aims to clarify and preserve the traditional and essential nature of the golf stroke, which has helped to make golf a unique and enjoyable game of skill and challenge," the statement said.

The USGA said it would decide on the proposed rule in the spring.

The tour's opposition to the anchoring ban was not surprising. Finchem met with his 16-member Player Advisory Council and policy board last week, and several players had indicated that the tour would go against the USGA.

Where it leads is still up in the air.

Finchem said the lack of empirical data was a problem, along with the fact golf's governing bodies have allowed long putters over the last two generations of golf. He suggested that if the USGA had tried to ban the anchored stroke in 1975, not many would have protested.

"I think we could understand it if for some reason or another ... it had negative results for the game of golf," Finchem said. "We have to look at it from the standpoint of is it good, bad or indifferent for the game as a whole -- professional level, amateur level -- and we conclude that it's not (a bad thing)."

 


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Comments

blogbullshit

The governing bodies are going mad. Some ranking old timer stuck in the 1800's started all this. Don't worry, he'll die soon.

What should be banned are the many stupid rules of golf. Why is it that only in the past several years have fixes been implemented to some of these. You ignored our Champions Tour players when they voiced their anger over stupid rules. Maybe the anchored putter isn't bringing in enough money.

Opinionhour

Interesting problem but at the end of the day it is about nerves. If it takes the nerves out by utilizing larger muscles and eliminating those little twitchy guys in your hands and arms it should not be allowed.
It will not 'hurt the game'. 98% of players bump the ball when they do not like the lie or take a drop when they are OB or break the rule in some way. They won't quit playing -- the will just ignor the rules....this only impacts competitive golf.

johndury

Simple, just make a maximum length putter (short), which would also prevent 'legal' cheating eg. obtaining club lengths relief (Vijay Singh).

keith.callahan

Putting is a huge part of the game! Every week when they interview the pro's it's all about who's draining the putt's. Thus, they coined the phrase "Drive for Show...Putt for Dow".

michaelfw51-alt

The USGA and R&A did not have to initiate the current showdown about putter anchoring. The practice has been going on for 40 years. Why now? The reason they give - fear that long putters would become too popular or prevalent and that they confer an advantage - is not born out by any conclusive facts. Putting is very individualized and the options in terms of putting styles and equipment choice for players are legion. Long putters are used by some players most often because of the yips or some physical problem but they will always constitute a modest proportion of all golfers. So, again, why now? Let me suggest that the big problem is that there is such an element of arbitrariness to the R&A and the USGA's proposed ruling. Why all of a sudden did this become a priority ahead of much more important matters? Was it because Tiger Woods looked down his nose at long putters and the ruling bodies overreacted because of who he is? Why not fix something that matters? What about the billions that have been spent around the world on lengthening golf courses because players hit the golfball so much further than before. Isn't this a bigger priority? Course lengthening has cost golf a horrendous amount of money and guess who pays the resulting higher green fees? Anchoring the putter cannot remotely approach the amount of harm that golf ball technology has caused to the game of golf. And yet the ruling bodies have done little or nothing about it. This is evidence of arbitrariness in the R&A and USGA. Arbitrariness is fatal to the credibility of any rules-based system, regardless of how much Colin Montgomerie touts them. Could it be that another possible reason for the anchoring ruling is the psychology of rule-making, itself? Stuffy people with an anal preoccupation with the minutiae of golf getting overly enthusiastic? Golf has got to be one of the worst sports for stuffy, often silly little rules that ceased to make sense long ago. It is also one of the few sports where the rule book and associated precedents make a small library in size and complexity. One conclusion? Ruling bodies sometimes can come to love rules as much as they profess to love the game. They forget that golf is in a downturn and must be seen as fun by a new, younger demographic in order to survive. In summary, too many rules, arbitrariness and unfairness - all these things erode the credibility of the system being run by the R&A and USGA. Now golf's governing bodies are starting to reap what they have sown. Good! Maybe things will improve for the game and its practitioners.

alaskanpohlerbear

So many amateurs such as Robert Soberano miss the point in anchoring the putter. Are anchoring putters really an advantage to the players? I understand the point no club in the game of golf besides the putter can be anchored so why can the putter be anchored. However how is the belly putter advantageous for anyone there is no empirical evidence to explain this? Last 4 of out the 5 major championships winners had a belly putter..... yea so what. I didn't know that putting was the entire game, or I didn't know that the belly putter gave Webb Simpson in the 2012 US Open top 10 percentages for GIR's and driving accuracy for that week. If the belly putter is so great why are they less than 10 percent of Nike, Taylormade and Calloway putter sales for 2012. I play in quite a few money based tournaments and I don't use a belly putter. Being at student at WSU our college team, not one of us uses a belly putter. Also why doesn't some of our greatest players on tour use a short putter Tiger Woods, Rory mcilroy, Phil Mikelson or even one the best putters to ever live Ben Crenshaw, he used a short putter. So why ban the putters, it didn't make more putts for me. Everyone says it takes the hands out of it and you create a pendulum with your body. Well what happens when you take that pendulum of course its gonna come back off course much more likely than a short putter because your hands can save the putter. The reason why I feel that and I and think some of the best use short putters because the freedom that it gives you. In the book "golf is not a game of perfect" BoB Rotella says one of the best things you can do in golf is give up control to gain control. So by anchoring the putter I think it actually hinders the player you get to stuck with steering the club rather than the short putter that can glide freely through the stroke. Another great putter who uses the short putter Brandt Snedeker. So before you think the belly putter eliminates so many problems realize what it also takes away from you.

keith.callahan

There's no doubt, that anchoring the putter allows a player to make a more consistent stroke each time.......not a perfect stroke, but a more consistent stroke. So it is an advantage, how much is hard to measure, but the stat's pretty much tell the story. In a few years, the long putter will be in every golfers bag and we'll all look like a bunch of idiots out there sweeping our balls into the hole instead of stroking them in like all the great players before us..ie Jack, Arnnie & Bobby Jones..... To use the length of time that it's been allowed, as a defense, is just foolish. If it's wrong .... it needs to be fixed, no matter how long it's been happening.
It's not that players who putt with anchored putters can't putt with a stroke... they're just not good at it and so they're looking for an edge to make up for their inadequacies. That's not how this game works.....we use handicaps to level the playing field ....not equipment.

firehawk44

I think the PGA has caved to equipment manufacturers/player sponsors. I think I'm too young for an anchored putter and I'm 65! Ok them for the seniors but to see players in their 20's use these thinkg is kind of embarrasing. Obviously it's a competetive advantage for a couple of players that never won anything until they switch to the anchored putter.

Michaelbriggs78

Being a newcomer to the game, I can't give much input regarding this issue. I will say that based on what I've seen so far, it looks to me that it does give an unfair advantage to golfers who use anchored/belly putters over those who don't. Plus they just look ridiculous.

pajones127707

Thank you Tim Finchem for bringing some fundamental fairness to this question. When Snead went to the croquet stroke in the 60s it took a matter of month for the USGA to act. I've been using a long putter for almost 30 years - if it was such a violation of all that is sacred about the game of golf, they would have acted long ago. It is simply not fair to tell someone - 30 years after the fact - that what they are doing is now against the rules. Unless, of course, they are ready to ban over-size titanium drivers and modern golf balls - things that really have fundamentally changed the game!

hokusober

My argument against broom sticks and the belly putter is this: no club from the driver to the lob wedge is anchored to the body. Why should the putter be the exception to the rule? When the club is not anchored to the body, there is ALWAYS the inherent risk that the shot will not be executed as planned. That's the beauty and frustration of the game. The same can be said for putting. You have to make a pure stroke. But with the putter anchored to the body it takes out that inherent risk. Anchoring works like a pivot point or crutch. When I started playing this wonderful game, I used a conventional length putter. My friends commended me on my good putting skills. Several years later, I began pulling my putts and I started losing bets to my friends (they were happy), but I was frustrated. So I looked at myself in a full length mirror and I noticed that my shoulders were out of allignment. My left shoulder was more posterior than my right. My putting stroke went outside in. Consequently, it caused me to pull my putts. What did I do? I went to left hand low or crossed handed putting. My shoulders went back into proper allignment as well as my hips, thighs and knees. Problem solved. I began sinking more putts and winning more money (my friends were bummed). If I can figure it out, I don't know why the pros can't. They have more time to practice and get it right. If they have the yips, see a shrink. "See putt, read putt, sink putt." That's my philosophy. You don't need a broom stick or belly putter to do that.

golferjfk

i belive that only people with meical problems should be allowed to use a long putter
in competion

guilddrive

Speaking as a pure amateur, I was very happy to see the PGA Tour and PGA of America's position on this.

I agree with Steve Stricker and the other PGA Advisory Board members, and also Dave Pelz's strong position. E.g., http://www.golf.com/tour-and-news/belly-putter-should-not-be-banned-says-dave-pelz-0

Let's grow the game.

wrogers713

Long putters in them selves do not violate the rules, however when the player anchors the butt end of said putter to his chest, does violate the rules, and is nothing more than cheating.
Tim Finchem needs to look at this more closely, and I think he coluld see the light.

tomtryhane

The ban is on anchoring, not on belly's. Let preserve the game and return to a swing. I suppose Bernard Langer's record doesn't count? Would you like to takeaway his long putter for a year and see what happens. I'm sure he would disagree. Remember Snead, straddling the line, they outlawed that and there was only one guy on the tour using that style. It was not conventional, that is the issue.
As far as Finchem's comments, I give them as much credence as Stevie's. We would rather not hear your comments unless you are winning a tournament. He is not from a governing body, nor a player to listen too. He makes his living off this fine game and should keep his comments to himself. I have never been so disgusted with the PGA Tour.

carolpominville

Long putters. I putted with a long putter for 12 years. I feel I can speak with authority on the subject. As a youngster, I played golf left handed. I did not play very often, once or twice a year. I hated the game. Later in life, in my twenties, I started playing right handed. (went out with a friend, I did not have any clubs, and thats what he had!) But I kept putting left. After about 7 or 8 years of that, it became very difficult to chip and then putt. Chipping right, putting left. In 1998, I was in Toronto and saw a long putter (broom long) for the first time. Tried it and loved it. That was when I started putting right handed. For about 10 years, I putted pretty good. People commented on my putting and the putter. Some said it should be illegal, as the long putter was such an advantage. If it is such an advantage, why don't you go out and buy one?!! i would retort.

Suddenly in year 11, I started missing two foot putts like a disease!! No matter how I practiced, when came game time, I would pull them left. In year 12, the affliction continued! In a tournament near the end of the year, I missed a 2 foot putt three times! i scored a 9 on a par 5!! That was the last straw. I swore I would NEVER play with it again. I went out and bought a short putter, a taylor made, and have been putting with it for the last two years. I should of switched a long time ago. I much more enjoy putting with a short putter. I am making more of those 2 footers! In the end, I came to the conclusion that the longer the putter, the easier it is to miss, as one has more "metal" to move. More inertia to control. Imagine if you will, trying to putt with a 12 foot long putter, standing on a step ladder. It would be almost impossible to control that putter. My conclusion based on my experience, is that it is easier to putt with a short putter. Less metal, less inertia to control. Those of you that have all kinds of opinions about long putters, but have never used one, please bite your tongue. Your ignorance shines through your words. Personally, I am against the long putter ban. There is no advantage to putting with them. So let the long putter live. However, personally, I will never go back to it. I LOVE the short putters.
One long putter experienced personal opinion.
Mr Carol Pominville,
golf nut, computer geek and bass guitar player.