The PGA Tour reversed course Monday and told its membership that it will adopt the anchoring ban, beginning on Jan. 1, 2016.
The policy board agreed upon the rule change at The Greenbrier, site of this week’s PGA Tour event, and then informed the player advisory council.
“In making its decision, the policy board recognized 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,” commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement. “The board also was of the opinion that having a single set of rules on acceptable strokes applicable to all professional competitions worldwide was desirable and would avoid confusion.'
When contacted by Golf Channel, the USGA said it had no comment at this time.
In an interesting twist, the PGA Tour said that it would accept the ban, but also urged the governing bodies to extend the timeframe for amateurs to anchor, perhaps until another rules change in 2024. In other words, it suggested that bifurcation – or a different set of rules for professionals and amateurs – might be the best option in the short-term, especially for those who don’t play for pay.
“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.
When announcing Rule 14-1b in a 40-page report in May, the USGA and R&A stressed the need for one set of rules for the “future health of the game.”
“If there was some type of schism, we don’t think that’d be good for golf,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said at the time. “We are doing what we think is right for the long-term benefit of the game for all golfers.”
It’s important to note when the PGA Tour will adopt the ban. The Jan. 1, 2016, date is tricky timing for the Tour, which beginning this year is moving to a wraparound schedule. Now, by enacting the anchoring ban on Jan. 1, in the midst of a new campaign, the first events of the 2015-16 season will allow anchoring but not the tournaments contested in ’16.
Still, the Tour’s compliance with the anchoring ban is an important victory for the governing bodies. In February, Finchem appeared on an NBC broadcast to announce the PGA Tour’s opposition to the then-proposed rule, saying that there was an “absence of data or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage” to anchoring. But by adopting the rule, the Tour avoided what could have been a potentially chaotic situation in which the rules were different at regular PGA Tour events and majors.
This ban will affect the estimated 18 percent of PGA Tour players who anchor their putters, including four of the last seven major winners (Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Ernie Els and Adam Scott). It was reported in May that at least nine players who oppose the ban, including Scott, have retained the services of Boston-area attorney Harry Manion.
Last week, the PGA of America’s board of directors agreed to adopt the anchoring ban. In a statement Monday, the PGA underscored the need to extend the implementation of the ban for amateurs beyond 2016.
Said PGA president Ted Bishop: “We firmly and consistently stated our position throughout the open comment period, and while we agree to implement Rule 14-1b, we continue to feel strongly that the amateur player needs a longer period of adjustment to this rule.”