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Anchor ban, bifurcation still a hot topic

Tim Finchem
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MARANA, Ariz. – Although most players and officials connected with Monday’s meeting of the PGA Tour’s Policy Board remained united in their silence regarding the circuit’s stance on a proposed anchoring ban, the winds of discontent were easy enough to read on Tuesday.

Less than 24 hours after commissioner Tim Finchem met with the Policy Board, the Tour remained coy as to how it will respond to the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient’s proposed ban on anchoring, but a handful of Player Advisory Council members told the consensus seems opposed to the ban.

Although one PAC member said “everybody was against (the ban)” during Monday’s 35-minute conference call, another council member softened that stance but conceded those voicing opinions against the rule change were “more in the majority.”

Thirteen of the 16 PAC members were on the conference call and each had a chance to state their opinion on the issue. A few hours later, Finchem held another conference call with the Policy Board to solidify the circuit’s stance on the ban, which would go into effect in 2016 if it is passed later this spring.

The next step for the Tour is to draft a formal proposal that will be sent to the USGA and R&A before Feb. 28, which will mark the end of the 90-day comment period on the issue.

The European Tour will also draft a response for golf’s rule makers, although one source told that the issue is not nearly as contentious or polarizing across the pond as it is here. Nor has the European Tour’s Tournament Committee held a formal meeting regarding the proposal.

For many involved with Monday’s meetings, the conversation went well beyond whether players should be allowed to anchor a putter and deviated to more esoteric questions about modern rule making.

“I have said all along, take anchoring out of the equation, is this the best way to make rules for our sport? Should the PGA Tour make its own rules? No. Should the PGA Tour and the PGA of America and the USGA and R&A and journalist be involved? I think so,” said Paul Goydos, one of four player directors on the Policy Board. “I don’t think this is the way we should be writing rules for our sport.”

That theme seemed to be growing among the play-for-pay set even before the USGA and R&A announced last year the potential plan to ban anchoring.

“The rhetoric among the players is the highest it’s ever been,” said PAC member Joe Ogilvie. “The question is why are we governed by an amateur organization? I praise what the R&A and USGA have done over the years. They have been wonderful stewards of the game, but is this the best way?”

In practical terms those types of questions could lead the Tour to break with the USGA and R&A if the ban is implemented and bifurcate the Rules of Golf, one set of rules for amateurs and another for professionals.

It’s an option that Finchem did not dismiss when asked about bifurcation last month at Torrey Pines but he didn’t feel the anchoring issue would necessarily require two sets of rules.

Nor does it seem all players would be in favor of the Tour getting into the rule making business.

“That hardest thing to do is get a non-biased, rational opinion on what’s best for the Tour without any personal issues coming into it,” said Brad Faxon, a former Policy Board member and a current member of the Champions Tour’s PAC. “Who really has the best interest of the game? That’s why I think we need to leave governing away from us – the players . . . I’m against bifurcation of the rules, it does no good for anybody.”

For now that debate can wait, at least until Feb. 28.