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Finchem speaks on bifurcation of anchoring rules

Tim Finchem
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AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 11: Kenny Perry plays his second shot on the first hole during the final round of the 2010 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2010 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)  - 

SAN DIEGO – To bifurcate or not to bifurcate?

That is the question facing the PGA Tour.

Commissioner Tim Finchem says he would rather his organization not stray from the Rules of Golf as determined by the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, but he isn’t closing the door on the possibility that the PGA Tour will go its own way and decide against adopting a proposed ban on anchored strokes.

In fact, Finchem said in a media session Wednesday morning at the Farmers Insurance Open that he thinks certain rules are suited for “bifurcation,” where the PGA Tour would play by a different set of rules.

“Our objective always has been to try our best to follow the rules as promulgated by the USGA and the R&A,” Finchem said. “We believe in the notion that one body of rules is important, and that's always our intent. We just reserve the option not to, if we have overriding reasons not to do so. And that's happened a couple of times.”

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Asked directly if it was possible the PGA Tour would reject the proposed ban, Finchem said: “Technically, there is that possibility. However, it certainly wouldn't be our objective.”

USGA executive director Mike Davis outlined specifics of the proposed rule that would ban anchored strokes in the first PGA Tour players' meeting of the year Tuesday night at the Hilton Hotel. According to a participant in the meeting, more than one PGA Tour pro questioned the USGA’s authority in making rules for the professional game.

Davis said afterward that as a PGA Tour guest at the meeting, he didn’t think it was appropriate to comment on what transpired during his presentation.

The USGA and R&A’s 90-day comment and review period on the proposed ban ends on Feb. 28. Finchem said the USGA wants to act on the proposed ban by March with the new rule taking effect in 2016. The PGA Tour’s full policy board will ultimately decide whether to follow any rule against anchoring.

Finchem said the PGA Tour will provide its reaction to the governing bodies in the “next few weeks.”

Finchem and Davis have different views of bifurcation.

“One of the great things about golf is that everybody plays under the same set of rules,” Davis told Golf Channel at the end of last year. “It really gives structure to the game. For those people who think we should bifurcate, I’m telling you, you haven’t thought about the ramifications. Once you open Pandora’s box, it will forever change the game, hurt the game. We are steadfast on this one. People who want to bifurcate don’t understand what they’re asking.” 

Finchem offered an alternate view on Wednesday.

“There are certain parts of the rules that could be bifurcated, and it wouldn't hurt anything,” Finchem said. “I've always felt that way about the golf ball, for example, going back to the discussions of the ball in '01 and '02. I hear people say, `It's a bad thing.’ Well, the golf ball was, in fact, functionally bifurcated for a good period of time. Professionally, we used a balata ball. Pretty much everybody else used a two-piece ball.  It was a functional bifurcation. When you get into the presentation of the sport though, I think you've got to be careful about bifurcation. This is one of those areas, I think.”

Finchem expressed concerns about the three-year waiting period before a proposed ban on anchoring would take effect. He said it would be a “distraction” for players using anchored putters with the rule change on its way.

“There isn't much to this that doesn't cause some kind of problem,” Finchem said.

If the PGA Tour should decide against a ban on anchoring, it opens questions about the majors. Players might be allowed to anchor their putters during the regular PGA Tour season, but what about the majors? The U.S. Open and the British Open wouldn’t permit anchoring under a new rule. What The Masters and PGA Championship would do is unclear.

“It's a pretty good list of things that we're looking at that has issues,” Finchem said.