Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Axis and Allies: Golf Version

UPDATED 3/4/2013
            With the 90-day comment period now at an end, some definitive lines have been drawn in the golf world on the anchoring ban.  Golf Channel has covered new opinions very well, but no one has completely summarized the different sides that have quietly come about.

            I’m sure there are plenty of people or big names I have missed, but this is a pretty good summary of the battle lines.  So which side are you on?  For you, who are the axis and who are the allies?

In Favor of the Anchoring Ban:

The USGA and Royal & Ancient – Well, duh.  They proposed the ban in the first place and are showing no signs of backing down.  Word on the street before the comment period was extreme confidence in the ban going into effect come 2016.

The European Tour – The European Tour made their official announcement supporting the R&A and the anchoring ban today.  Unlike the PGA Tour, nearly all the representatives on the Player Committee were in favor of the ban.  Euro Tour Chief Executive George O'Grady noted that the issue has received more press in the United States in part due to a larger number of players using the anchored method and faster green speeds leading to the anchored method's use.

The Ladies European Tour - Officially the right side of the pond is on board with the ban.  As Geoff Shackleford noted, it's not quite Bobby Jones coming back from the dead to support the governing bodies, but it's one more Tour organization in the USGA/R&A camp. 

Sunshine Tour - The South African leg of the European Tour came out in favor of the R&A and will abide by the decision without question.

Jack Nicklaus - Jack was fairly clear who he's siding with on the issue.  Although he stated, "I've been fairly neutral on it," he is also staunchly opposed to bifurcated Rules.  "The one thing that would disturb me was if the Tour took another position other than the the USGA's final position.  The Tour has always played by one set of Rules...and I think we should stay that way."

Tiger Woods – While at one point he did admit practicing or testing anchored putting, he has always been a stalwart against it.  He stands firmly behind the USGA and believes, “all 14 clubs should be swung.”  He reaffirmed his position this week at his Honda Classic press conference.

Rory McIlroy – Rory isn’t as steadfast as Tiger, but his opinion is basically ‘trust the Rules guys’.  He understands and sympathizes with opponents of the ban, but also believes in supporting the USGA and R & A, whatever their decision may be.

Bubba Watson - He was a little late coming to the party, but the reigning Masters champion doesn't feel the anchored stroke is a true golf stroke.  Tally one more in favor of the ban.

Colin Montgomerie – In a strange launch back into relevance, Colin gave his stance, “I think we should go with what the USGA and R & A feel.”  He and Rory share the same sentiment, if the USGA and R & A ban it, go with it.

Nick Faldo – On Golf Channel’s ‘State of the Game’ he clearly felt that anchoring the putter does not constitute a stroke.  “You go back in golf history and it’s called a golf swing, not a golf hinge,” he said.

Johnny Miller – By noting himself as the first to anchor the putter up the arm (which would be legal under Rule 14-1b), he is clearly uncomfortable with anchoring the putter, but also uncomfortable with bifurcation. 

Against the Ban:

The PGA of America – The Tour made bigger headlines, but the PGA came out first, even before the comment period.  PGA President Ted Bishop wrote a strongly worded letter prior to the proposed ban’s announcement stating the PGA was not in favor of the ban.  He reiterated that position after Commissioner Finchem’s announcement this week noting that the PGA’s survey showed 63% of PGA members (club professionals or myself) are against the ban.  I question the accuracy but that’s another point.

The PGA Tour – I think this one is obvious now.  Commissioner Tim Finchem made the position quite clear.

National Golf Course Owner’s Association – These guys have a vested interest in keeping as many players in the game of golf as possible.  They don’t care about Simpson, or Bradley or Els, they care about keeping their courses afloat.  Personally, I think this is one opinion that should speak louder than others, whether I agree or not.

Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Ernie Els – I’ve grouped these guys together for a reason.  All three are obviously against the ban as the 3 major champions believed to be responsible for the proposed ban.  They argue in favor of themselves, but all three have also admitted they’ll switch if that’s what it takes.  Ernie says he won three majors with the short putter and one with the belly – he’ll find a way.  Webb stated he’s been practicing with the regular putter the whole time.  Frankly, I played against him as a junior before he switched…he’s still pretty good.  Keegan just wants people to stop calling him a cheater, which he isn’t.  So stop calling him a cheater people.

Carl Petterson and Tim Clark – I’ve separated these guys for a reason.  Tim Clark uses a long putter because he is physically unable to pronate his wrists in order to use a traditional putter.  He’s used it his whole career, and while Tim is most certainly an elite player, I don’t think anyone would say his record shows a distinct advantage for having used the long putter.  Petterson is another career long putter user.  I believe he’ll do fine with a short putter, but it will take some serious adjusting.

Brandel Chamblee – It’s hard to say with Brandel, because he’s one of the few openly in favor of bifurcation.  Which would suggest that he doesn’t necessarily oppose the ban.  However, I think his statements are pretty clear he thinks it’s a bad move and we should steer clear of this ban.

Switzerland (No opinion or on the fence):

Jason Dufner, Ricky Barnes, Geoff Ogilvy and a number of other Tour players the ban doesn’t affect – There was a good article today about the general indifference of the majority of the Tour.  The reason: the majority doesn’t use an anchored putter and really don’t think guys who anchor have an advantage over them.  What the real consensus is, however, is that they would like to stay playing under one set of Rules.

Phil Mickelson – He’s everybody’s best friend.  He likes the ban, he doesn’t like the ban; he’ll do whatever the USGA and PGA Tour eventually decide, bifurcated or not.  After his brief foot-in –the-mouth moment about taxes, I think he’s staying clear of hot button issues.

The LPGA – I think this is an interesting ‘no call’ on the LPGA’s part.  I’m not sure they have no opinion on it, but they certainly haven’t offered it.  At least they haven’t offered a public opinion, which is smart.  The more I see of Mike Whan, the more I like this (relatively) new Commish.  If all this had been settled behind closed doors before the comment period, not only would we be further along in the process, but we wouldn’t have all this speculation.

Me – Is it really the best thing for the game?  Is an anchored stroke really a stroke?  The only thing I’m sure of is that we definitely should not bifurcate and that I am definitely sick of hearing about “amateurs making Rules for the pros.”  The pros have representation on the Rules Committee, and those “amateurs” have forgotten more about the Rules of Golf and history of Golf than any of us have learned, so maybe they should get a little more respect than calling them “amateurs” when it comes to making the Rules.

Against Bifurcation:

Just about Everybody except Brandel Chamblee - I’m not trying to single Brandel out, in fact, it’s his opinion I usually value the most of Golf Channel writers and commentators.  He is, however, one of the only people I’ve seen openly come out and make a strong argument in favor of bifurcation regardless of the result of the ban.  The general consensus otherwise, is that we all want to play the same game if possible. 

What I would love to see stop, is having Tour players and commentators confuse Local Rules with bifurcation.  This even extends to Tiger who, despite his gaffe earlier in the year, is known to be fairly solid in his Rules knowledge.  The Local Rules the Tour uses on their Hard Card and otherwise, are all in accordance with USGA/R & A Rules.  They are either approved and noted in Appendix I or by Decision under 33-8 (or elsewhere), or have been specifically approved by the USGA.  Adopting a Local Rule is NOT the same as bifurcation.  Bifurcation would be the result of implementing a Rule or Condition that either waives or eliminates a Rule of Golf.  Under USGA/R & A Rules, a Local Rule may not waive a Rule of Golf (Rule 33-8b).  The Local Rules on the PGA Tour Hard Card and that are otherwise adopted (Tiger’s example was the stones in bunkers Local Rule) are permitted by the USGA and therefore are in accordance with the Rules. 

No comments:

Post a Comment