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Tour player council, Finchem discuss anchoring

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DUBLIN, Ohio – For an hour and a half, they talked.

The 16-member player advisory council, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem (via a conference call) and just as many opinions on the plan to ban anchoring in golf, or so it seemed.

The opinions on Tuesday afternoon were “mixed,” according to PAC member Doug LaBelle, as the circuit decides how to proceed following news earlier this month that the USGA and R&A will ban anchoring in 2016.

“It’s a tough one because there’s a lot of passion,” said Davis Love III, a four-time player director on the policy board, which will ultimately decide the issue, and a current PAC member.

Nine of the 16 PAC members are playing this week’s Memorial tournament, and the rest joined the meeting deep within the bowels of Muirfield Village’s expanding clubhouse, via a conference call. At issue, is how the Tour will respond to the rule change, fall in line with the rules, as it has historically, or deviate from the Rules of Golf and effectively create two sets of rules.

Just two of the 16 PAC members, Webb Simpson and Brendan Steele, use long putters, but for many who attended Tuesday’s meeting this issue goes well beyond whether players should be allowed to bury the butt of a club in their stomachs or against their chests.

“There is a sentiment to either agree with it and move on, which is what we ought to do, or let’s start making our own rules. That’s the big decision here now,” Love said. “Maybe there is a silver lining here. Maybe it becomes a better relationship with the USGA moving ahead.”

To be clear, nothing was decided during Tuesday’s 90-minute meeting. The PAC simply advises the policy board, which is scheduled to meet again in early July at The Greenbrier Classic. But it is worth pointing out that in an informal poll of the PAC members in February, the vast majority opposed what was then a proposed ban.

“There were a lot of opinions, and they were divided to be honest,” LaBelle said. “We are going to continue to gather information and figure out what is best for us going forward.”

What is best for the Tour, however, is not so clear cut.

A group of nine Tour players who use long putters – including Tim Clark, Carl Pettersson and Masters champion Adam Scott – have been meeting with Boston-area attorney Harry Manion since January, a move that suggests if the Tour adheres to the ban, Finchem & Co. should expect a legal challenge.

“I’m just trying to make sure I have all the correct information,” said Scott late Tuesday on the Muirfield Village practice tee. “I’m happy the Tour continues to handle the situation the way they have so far, and I hope they continue to collect all the information they can to make the best possible decision.”

But a looming lawsuit, or the end of anchoring, seemed to be less of a flashpoint during Tuesday’s meeting than a fundamental concern over who makes the rules.

“Nobody seems to be concerned about a lawsuit. It’s more about what’s best for the game going down the road,” Love said.

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