The PGA Tour appears to have quite an issue on its hands. In November, the United States Golf Association(USGA) along with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club(R&A) decided that there was going to be a rule change banning the anchoring technique that is commonly used with the long putter. After the rule change was passed, the USGA and R&A opened a 90 day comment period before the rule would be officially put into place. If the rule change were to be adopted, it would go into effect in 2016. As we near the end of this 90 day comment period, the PGA Tour has a few decisions to make in how to proceed forward.
The first is whether or not to even adopt the rule. The PGA and LPGA, would be well within their rights to not adopt the rule change brought about by USGA and R&A. The idea of bifurcation (yes I had to google the definition too, it essentially means splitting into two parts), is certainly an option, but not one with a lot of precedent and certainly not a route anyone expects the PGA Tour to take in this matter. While I could certainly imagine the powers that be sitting in back rooms in the dark of night, drinking brandy and using high end words to make threats, there is no indication that the PGA would actually take this stance in the light of day.
The second issue is that this rule change, which is being brought about because of the apparent unfair situation it creates for those who choose not use the long putter, won’t be adopted until 2016. To put that in perspective, in the United States we will be gearing up for another presidential election when this new rule officially goes into effect. So this extremely unfair advantage that some golfers, again CHOOSE to have or not have in their bag, will be swiftly outlawed in three years. The train of thought there, no matter how grotesquely derailed it may be, is that the professional golfers who use this putter will need time to adapt to having to use a shorter putter. It would make one think that these men and women actually have day jobs and that their time to practice putting is limited.
This week, USGA executive director Mike Davis met with the PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and its policy board to explain the new rule and answer any questions they may have about the decision. The details of that meeting were kept under wraps, as Davis is not an executive director who likes to meet and tell, and Finchem stated the PGA Tour would have a decision on how they will proceed forward in a few weeks.
While all of this is going on, mind you, there are still golfers using this long putter and reaping the apparent benefits of the unfair advantage it provides. When the new rule does go into effect, it would appear that those using the long putters would have to make the switch pretty quickly or be exposed to the fan heckling and media questioning that would surely follow over the next few years. Imagine too, if one of these golfers won a tournament or stole a major!!
The reasoning for, and the time taken to change the rule doesn’t make sense. I don’t think anyone thinks we will see an all that different game of golf, if at all, once the long putter is officially banned. All the USGA and R&A have done is create an issue that would have never have existed if they would have left everything alone.