We're about two months into the three-month comment period that the USGA and R&A instituted after they announced their proposed rule to ban the anchoring of long putters.
Mark King, the CEO of TaylorMade, has a comment. And, wow, what a comment it is.
In short, King told The Telegraph newspaper in England that the anchoring ban is nonsensical, urged the tours to break away from the USGA and even predicted that the USGA will become a non-factor within a decade.
"The anchoring ban makes no sense to me at all," said King, whose company owns TaylorMade, adidas Golf, Ashworth apparel, Adams Golf and puttermaker Yes! Golf. "If I were running the PGA of America, I would write my own set of rules. I'd do it with the PGA Tour. The industry needs to come together without the USGA. Leave them out."
PGA of America President Ted Bishop issued a statement expressing his concern with the proposed ban immediately after it was announced. The European Tour has indicated it will go along with the ban when it goes into effect in 2016, but the PGA Tour hasn't yet formally established its position.
It would be a drastic move for the PGA Tour to flout the USGA and R&A, which establish the Rules of Golf worldwide, Telegraph columnist James Corrigan wrote. But, he noted, King feels it could happen because such prominent players as Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els and Webb Simpson have expressed strong opposition to the ban.
"I'm still not convinced the PGA Tour is going to completely embrace the long putter rule," said King. "Here's a prediction: The USGA within 10 years will be a nonentity. They will be a non-factor in golf because they are choosing to be on the outside and no one is signing up for what they represent. The industry is going to move away from them and pass them. They're obsolete. I hate to say that but that's their behavior."
Bifurcation – having one set of rules for professional players and another for amateurs – is not only inevitable, King told the newspaper, it's coming fast. "If [PGA Tour Commissioner] Tim Finchem says he's going to use all the USGA rules except the long putter rule, there you go. You have two sets of rules."
Regardless of whether the ban is instituted or not, King says TaylorMade will continue to make long putters. And if the USGA ever acts to restrict ball flight, as has been rumored, the company will keep making hot balls. There's no reason to doubt him, either -- TaylorMade has enjoyed record-setting sales in each of the past two years, and is by far the dominant company in the golf equipment space these days.
"The whole world, not just golf, the whole world is about innovation and consumers only want what's new and exciting," he said. "They don't want last year, they want new, innovative cool stuff and if we're going to stop that or limit that, we're going to kill the industry not just equipment but the playing of the game.
"So if the USGA doesn't jump on board and lead this new way of golf, they're just going to be obsolete," he summarized. "And if Finchem goes ahead and leaves the long putter in, it's just the start. The USGA is going over the edge."
King is the first big-clubmaker CEO to come out so strongly against the anchor rule, and others might not follow. However, having the largest equipment company come out so strongly against them has got to at least furrow some brows at the USGA and R&A, and King's vocal opposition might encourage other opponents to speak out as well. It'll be very interesting to see what happens from here.