USGA Drops The Anchor, But PGA Will Have Their Say

By Neil White
Adam Scott
Michael Madrid – USA TODAY Sports

As expected on Tuesday morning, both the R&A and USGA made similar announcements confirming the ban of anchored putting, set to commence on January 1 2016. The proposed rule change was announced last December and was followed by a 90 day ‘comment period’, where both the USGA and the R&A invited feedback from individuals and organisations within the sport.

Since the end of the comment period, both organisations have reviewed the feedback but both the text of the rule, and it’s implementation date remain unchanged.

At the R&A announcement, Peter Dawson thanked all who had participated in the process. Reading from the conclusion of their report, with words I believe directed at the USPGA, he stated : “We know that not everyone will agree with our final decision, but we do hope that the care and love for the game that all have expressed through their participation in this process will facilitate acceptance of rule 14-1b when it takes effect. Golf is a single worldwide game of fun, skill, challenge, honour and integrity which is best served by adherence to a single set of worldwide rules”.

Inevitably, the decision will be met with varying degrees of approval. Some will welcome the ban with open arms, while others, mainly those who use the long stick, will fight their own corner. I have no doubt that today’s announcement is far from the end of this debate; in fact, I also have no doubt that legal challenges to the ruling are already being prepared as I write.

Before the ban was confirmed, Tiger Woods said at a Tiger Woods Foundation event on Monday; “anchoring should not be a part of the game. It should be mandatory to swing all 15 clubs, I hope they (the PGA Tour) do it as soon as possible.”

He seems to be accepting of the method used by Bernhard Langer and Matt Kuchar (among others), where the putter is held inside the forearm, as according to Woods “the butt end of the putter still has to travel, it’s not a fixed point”.

Others who were vocal in their support of the ban on Tuesday included the LPGA, who proffered their trust in the USGA and the R&A, stating that they will “continue to respect and follow the rules of golf, including rule 14-1b”. Former British Open Champion Paul Lawrie cited it as “the correct decision” on Twitter, but remarked “slow play and slowing down the ball are far more important”. These sentiments were echoed by PGA Tour player Arron Oberholser.

On the other side of the fence, Bernhard Langer described the rule change as “very disappointing”, while both John Daly and David Feherty lamented the fact that PGA Tour professionals do not control the rules of their own game, as is the case with other major sports.

An intriguing example of the benefits of anchored putting is Masters champion Adam Scott. Since adopting the long putter at the WGC Matchplay in 2011, the Australian’s putting stats have improved by 5.2 putts per tournament. That’s the difference between donning the famous green jacket and a workmanlike Top-10 finish. There is no doubt that the effects of the ban on Scott and many others will be hugely significant.

However, it’s far from a done deal. The PGA will have their say in this yet, as pressure from some players will be immense. Personally, I wholeheartedly agree with the decision and believe that the PGA should have been immediate in their support. The rule makers are the rule makers and until such time as that changes, anything but full support could jeopardise the integrity of the sport.

Putting it all wonderfully into persepective, Peter Kostis stated on Twitter; “I have one word for you – Oklahoma. This is not life or death folks”. Life or death it certainly is not, but it may well leave some players fighting for their professional careers.

Neil White is an Irish based golf writer for Rant Sports. You can like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @neilwhite1, or add him to your Google+ network.

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