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PGA disagrees with belly putter ban

Commissioner says there’s no evidence to support governing bodies’ decision

Gulf News

Marana, Arizona: The PGA Tour has expressed disagreement with a proposal by the game’s governing bodies for the anchoring of long putters to be banned from 2016, commissioner Tim Finchem said on Sunday.

Speaking during the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship final at Dove Mountain, Finchem cited the lack of data detailing specific advantages in anchoring and the 40-year history of long putters as the main reasons not to back the proposal.

“Essentially where the PGA Tour came down was that they did not think that banning anchoring was in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour,” Finchem told reporters.

“The thinking of the players and our board of directors ... was that in the absence of data or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring, and given the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, there was no overriding reason to go down that road.

“An awful lot of amateurs today use anchoring ... and a number of players on the PGA Tour who have grown up with a focus on perfecting the anchoring method, if you will, did so after the USGA on multiple occasions approved the method years ago.”

Finchem said the PGA Tour had informed the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient (R&A) last week about its opinion on anchoring after conducting a thorough review of the proposal.

“It’s my understanding that sometime in the next month or two the USGA and the R&A will bring it (the proposal) to some conclusion,” Finchem added.

“I think their comment period ends, I want to say, in another week or so, and they’ve asked for opinion from organizations and whatever. We’ll see what develops.”

In November, the game’s governing bodies proposed a ban on players anchoring putters to their body, saying they wanted to outlaw the practice by 2016 in order to preserve the “skill and challenge” of putting.

Players and the golfing community were then given 90 days in which to discuss that proposal by the R&A and USGA, a period which concludes at the end of this month.

The announcement by the rulemakers came after three of the past five major champions had used ‘belly’ putters – Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA Championship), Webb Simpson (2012 US Open) and Ernie Els (2012 British Open).

“Honestly, if you think about it, this is a very subjective area,” said Finchem. “Our players are split on this issue in different ways.

“The professional game globally is stronger than it’s ever been today, and that on the heels of having anchoring as part of it for the last 30 or 40 years. It certainly hasn’t been a negative.”

Northern Irish world number one Rory McIlroy and second-ranked Tiger Woods are among several players who have consistently expressed their opposition to the belly putter and anchoring.

The R&A and USGA say putters should swing freely and not be anchored to any part of the body, and that swinging a club freely has been the essence of the 600-year-old sport.

The proposed new rule would come into force on January 1, 2016.