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« USGA Statement On PGA Tour Anchoring Stance | Main | Golf Channel Showing Finchem's 3 ET Sunday Scrum »
Sunday
Feb242013

Finchem: Anchoring Ban not "in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour."

To the transcript!

TIM FINCHEM:  Thank you, Laura.  Good afternoon, everyone.  This is the coldest microphone I've ever felt. Thanks for coming over for a few minutes.  I hate to take your attention away from the competition, but it seemed like this was the most ‑‑ best opportunity to answer your questions about this anchoring issue that have boiling around for the last several months.

Was it really? I'm thinking Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday would have all been happy days, but go on...

The USGA and the R&A notified us several months ago about their intention to put forward a proposal to change ‑‑ essentially change the rule as it relates to what a stroke is by further defining it as something where you can't ground your club and anchor your club.  In addition to the historical limitations on what a stroke is of scraping the ball or scooping the ball or pushing the ball.

We then undertook to go through a process to determine our position on that because they had a commentary that ends next week.  We brought that to a conclusion last week.  You're all aware of that because of the comments that have been made by folks who were involved in that process.  Our Player Advisory Council looked at it twice.  We had the USGA come in and make a presentation to a player meeting in San Diego, USGA made a presentation to our Board.

We researched and looked at it and articulated our position at the end of last week to the USGA and shared that thinking also with the R&A.

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. 

Key point there. Not only for the game, but not in the tour's best interest. In other words, we have star players who anchor and it would be bad for us if they could no longer do that. Quite a precedent.

I would note that the PGA of America came to the same conclusion after consultation with their membership.  Golf Course Owners Association came to the same conclusion, as well.

So nice that the Commish cares what those two organizations think!

I think there are a number of factors here, a number of details, a number of issues, but I think the essential thread that went through the thinking of the players and our board of directors and others that looked at this 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, that there was no overriding reason to go down that road.

Absense of data. Hmmm...bring on the data USGA and R&A. If you have it.

Recognizing a couple of things:  One, that an awful lot of amateurs today use anchoring;

I wonder if the Commissioner could provide data on that?

and two, that 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, and that for us to join in supporting a ban we think as a direction is unfair to both groups of individuals.  So those were the overriding reasons.

I'd be happy to answer your questions in just a second, but I would like to add to that because I've read some things that would suggest that this is kind of a donnybrook between the PGA of America and the PGA TOUR on one side and the USGA on the other, and that's not really, I think, correct.  You know, the USGA did on multiple occasions look at this and come to one conclusion; 25 or 30 years later now they've come to another conclusion, at least tentatively.  They've asked us to give our comments.  All we're doing at this point is saying this is our opinion.

On the Sunday of the WGC Accenture Match Play. No Friday news dump there.

We hold the USGA in the highest regard as a key part of the game of golf.  We don't attempt to denigrate that position in any way whatsoever.  It's just on this issue we think if they were to move forward, they would be making a mistake.

I'm just going to do it on national television while one of our signature events is playing out!

Q.  Do you accept your anchoring stance puts the R&A's and USGA's position under threat?

TIM FINCHEM:  Well, we're in favor of the current rule‑making system, and we're delighted that that system is open to the kind of input and suggestion that it's open to right now.  I think that's very healthy.  You know, bifurcation is kind of a different issue as to whether you could have different rules in certain areas, and I think that's still open to discussion.  I think in a perfect world, we'd all like to see the rules be exactly the same.  They're not exactly the same functionally now anyway, and in certain cases I could see where bifurcation might be an appropriate way to go.  But maybe, and I think we continue to believe that if possible we should keep the rules, the structure of the rules the same, and if possible, without bifurcation.  And I think that's doable.

Right, if they drop this anchoring ban! And here most of us thought bifurcation would introduce more restrictions to restore skill, and we're doing the opposite.

Here comes the more tortured language:

I do think, however, that, as I said earlier, transparency, openness, discussion, input involving people across the spectrum in terms of rule‑making, particularly as it relates to equipment rules, is very, very important.  Now, this particular rule has been put in a non‑equipment bucket, but functionally it's kind of a quasi‑equipment rule, non‑equipment rule, just because it's a method of play, a method of play that's been endorsed by the governing bodies for a generation.  And the struggle here is that after all of that, to be able to come in and say without an overwhelming reason to do so, without a powerful reason to do so, is a struggle for a lot of people.  And that's the struggle we have.

It's a struggle!

Q.  Could you see a day where the USGA and R&A outlaw anchoring and yet it's allowed on TOUR golf?

TIM FINCHEM:  You know, I haven't really ‑‑ I haven't spent much time worrying about that.  That would be speculation, and I haven't really thought about it.  I've thought more about some areas of bifurcation, whether it would work or not. 

The ball!

But I think that the focus here ought to be, if possible, to go down the same road, everybody go down the same road on anchoring, and that's certainly where we are right now.  We just hope they take our view on it.  We'll see.

Yes we will.

Q.  I'm sure this is a distraction having to do this on Sunday, not the best‑case scenario.  Why did you feel compelled to come out and make this announcement?

TIM FINCHEM:  Well, only because the elements of where we were have been reported at different levels.  That was one reason. 

It's the media's fault!

But the bigger reason is I've seen some stuff on line, some stuff has been said that's been suggestive of this donnybrook kind of approach, that this is kind of a war developing, and I felt like it was important to speak to that and make sure that we understood that this is part of a process at this point.  There's no reason to assume that everybody is going to go down different paths.  I just want to try to calm that sense down.  I think that's ‑‑ we ought to be able to have a discussion about this and come to conclusions without negativity.

Doesn't this only open the door to negativity?

Good question here:

Q.  When the USGA invited comments, they said they didn't think there was anything they hadn't thought about.  Do you feel confident that you are putting factors forward that they wouldn't have thought of?

TIM FINCHEM:  Well, I don't know.  I think that we have a variety of reasons why we're either troubled by the rule itself.  We also have reasons why we feel like the reasons put forward to do this are not compelling, and that's all we can do.  We can give them our thoughts.

Honestly, if you think about it, this is a very subjective area.  It's very subjective. 

Actually, this is true, and most opinions have suggested it's a competitive advange and not a stroke. But go on... 

Everybody has an opinion about it, and we certainly respect everybody's opinion.  A large number of our players ‑‑ our players are split on this issue in different ways, but I think if there are ‑‑ there are a good number of players that if you had asked them in 1980 or 1975, should we have long putters, should they be anchored, you would have got an answer.  And those players today will tell you, if this was then I'd be of the same opinion.  But it's not then.  It's after two times it was reviewed and specifically approved by the USGA; it's after thousands of people have gravitated to this method; it's after decades of having the method and no way to determine ‑‑ an inability, even with data, to know whether it provides an advantage.  So the PGA of America has concluded that it will hurt the game with certain numbers of amateurs.  You can't figure out how many.  And in our case, we agree with that, but we also think as a matter of fairness, unless you can pinpoint some negative ‑‑ one thing we know for sure on the professional side is the professional game globally is stronger than it's ever been today, and that on the heels of having anchoring fas part of it for the last 30 or 40 years.  It certainly hasn't been a negative.  You can't point to one negative impact of anchoring.

Now, some people might say I don't think you should anchor or I don't think you should do that or I don't think you should do that, but it hasn't translated into a negative thing for the sport.  And that's why we're having trouble with it.

When Joe Dye and P.J. Boatwright and these people at the PGA were asked about it, they said it seemed like it was consistent with the definition of a stroke.

I think we could understand it if for some reason or another or a set of reasons it had negative results for the game of golf.  But actually more people ‑‑ some more people are playing the game because of it than would be without it, and competitively on the PGA TOUR, we look at this stuff all the time, we just don't see the negative aspects of it.

So it's just a personal view.  And I respect ‑‑ if a player says I just think you ought to have to swing the club differently when you're putting, everybody is entitled to their opinion.  We have to look at it from the standpoint of is it good, bad or indifferent for the game as a whole, professional level, amateur level, and we conclude that it's not.

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Reader Comments (49)

-most opinions have suggested it's a competitive advange and not a stroke.-

says who?
02.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenterinquiring minds
Two things:

1) The USGA has essentially said we are refining our definition of what is a golf stroke, & in so doing we are saying that anchoring is not a golf stroke. We are not saying it is a competitive advantage (hence they don't need data for their position bc their position is based on subjective definitions)

2) Good data studies would be VERY hard to do on this at the pga tour level. Basically in order to do a study that would prove causation you need very close to randomized control trials (on an exogenous variable) neither of those is going to happen here.

You also have to realize that their is a limit on how well a person can putt, as you approach the limit would receive less and less benefit (so by definition anchoring would help bad putters more than good putters). There is also (one would assume) a skill component, so basically a guy has to practice with it consistently in order to derive the biggest benefit.

The best trial I could see as a realistic possibility would be interrupted time series, with players who did not use the long putter then switched (and stuck with it) in one group, and comparable putting players who did not switch to a long putter in the other group. The problem is I'm not sure there are enough golfers for group A. For guy like Keegan, Webb, Tim & Carl you don't have any pre long putter data which really hampers study possibilities.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenterelf
He just made the European Tour much more attractive to golfers. The PGA Tour is now in the sports entertainment business.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLongy
PGA Tour today:
- "We're against this ban on account of no data support and it's not in the best interest of our members"
(Rationale: We will support our members who may decide to include us in any litigation should we have decided to officially support the ban)


USGA/R&A after comment period closed:
- "The anchoring ban was never based on data, more on what constitutes a 'proper stroke'. We'll implement the ban as proposed, but not until 2016 to help those needing a long transition period."
(Rationale: Take your time, but we won't be undermined. Also, we structured the proposed ban in such a way that we could brush off the 'data' argument at some point.)


PGA Tour sometime down the road:
- "While we still oppose the idea of banning anchoring, we recognize that we're not in the business of rule-making. A single set of rules is also in the best interest of the game and as such we will comply with the USGA/R&A decision."
(Rationale: We represented well, but we don't make the rules. Our tour players that are still anchoring may feel free to sue the governing bodies via class action if you like, but don't include the PGA - our position means you have no case against us.)
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPJ
These guys are good.

But not good enough to putt with a proper stroke.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPsycho
Gee; all that waffling and then he blows himself out of the water with his final statement.

"We have to look at it from the standpoint of is it good, bad or indifferent for the game as a whole, professional level, amateur level, and we conclude that it's not." It's not what... good, bad or indifferent - these are choices, not a position... He instinctively knows that t is bad for the game, and therefore he's replying to that implied reality, rather than to his own words. It's not bad is his assumed argument, but he knows it is. What a numpty.

[ written before reading update... ]
One thing I am curious about, what are the percentages (& what is the trend) in use of anchoring at the elite junior and college level, because what I think the usga is worried about is what the tour is going to look like 10-20 yrs from now.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenterelf
Glad to see the Tour stand up against this. Golf is losing players fast & the ban would drive even more away. It's a game - let people play. Compared to other equipment improvements, the long putter is nothing. Some people would have us playing with hickory shafts and featheries. All that matters are Tour and USGA competitions. Let them each make their own rules and let the rest of us players enjoy the game without a zillion complicated rules that few understand.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBud
PGA Tour today:
- "We're against this ban on account of no data support and it's not in the best interest of our members"
(Rationale: We will support our members who may decide to include us in any litigation should we have decided to officially support the ban)


USGA/R&A after comment period closed:
- "The anchoring ban was never based on data, more on what constitutes a 'proper stroke'. We'll implement the ban as proposed, but not until 2016 to help those needing a long transition period."
(Rationale: Take your time, but we won't be undermined. Also, we structured the proposed ban in such a way that we could brush off the 'data' argument at some point.)


PGA Tour sometime down the road:
- "While we still oppose the idea of banning anchoring, we recognize that we're not in the business of rule-making. A single set of rules is also in the best interest of the game and as such we will comply with the USGA/R&A decision."
(Rationale: We represented well, but we don't make the rules. Oh, and we're not going down the bifurcation road to the benfit of just our Tour - would look bad. Any of our tour players that are still anchoring may feel free to sue the governing bodies via class action if you like, but don't include the PGA - our position means you have no case against us.)
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPJ
"the usga is worried about is what the tour is going to look like 10-20 yrs from now. "

The USGA is worried about the PGA Tour? I don't think so.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
He's just representing his player advisory council and board and ultimately all players on the PGA Tour. Isn't that part of what a Commissioner should do?
02.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
"Let them each make their own rules and let the rest of us players enjoy the game without a zillion complicated rules that few understand. "

That's it! Now we need THREE sets of rules...

1. The USGA ROG
2. The PGA Tour ROG
3. And the Goofball/Anything Goes set of rules for everybody who doesn't need, care or follow the first two sets. BTW, who sets up and enforces the Goofball ROG? Elmer Fudd?

Let the games begin!
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
Elf,

Others on here have said the elite junior level is chock full of anchorers. Obvious answer as to why. College numbers are probably somwhere between elite junior and elite senior.

Ban it now please. Won't affect the overwhelming vast majority of us who play this game for fun and love.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
I get a real good chuckle every time Finchem mentions how important transperency is
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRyan
Amen,
Spoken like someone who doesn't anchor. If you had the yips, I wonder if your position would be different? Or I guess you would 3 or 4 jack every green until your playing companions mercifully give you the putt in order to "preserve tradition" or whatever it is we are trying to do here.
As for the Commish, he is speaking for HIS tour and HIS tour alone (and maybe the Seniors). He's really not concerned with anything else, nor should he be.
By the way, how cool would it be if they held a US Open and no one showed up?
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterShady golf
What does the Euro Tour think about anchoring? Have they stated their position?
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick Adams
"Golf is losing players fast & the ban would drive even more away."

what a friggin laugh that statement is
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
20% of amateurs anchor? I can count on one hand the number of players I've seen anchoring out of hundreds I've played with or observed in the past 2-3 years.

Also the thought of banning anchoring driving people away from the game is hard to imagine. Since it wasn't banned for the past 30 yeas, the game must have been flourishing then right? If you ask the beginner or newer golfer what will keep them playing the game, I would bet putting (and specifically the ability to use an anchored stroke) would be near the bottom of a very long list. Watching Mahan and Kuchar take 2 minuutes to hit a shot today probably contributes to more people quitting the game (slow play emulated by all) then if every person that played a long putter quit the game. As someone in the golf business I hear the top complaints of golfers and they are always time and money...with everything else being about as important as the number of condiments available at the halfway house...essentially not important at all.

if the PGAT/PGA/NGCOA/USGA and especially clubs all put time and effort to help speed up play and reduce costs, growth wouldn't be an issue.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
Do we even know whether a majority of Tour players are for or against anchoring? I'm betting Tiger and quite a few others will gladly compete for a U. S. Open title if anchoring is banned...
02.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
I'm a bit surprised a fellow like Davis Love is against the ban.

Now that he has his turn at the RC captaincy, he shouldn't be worried about making any of his peers mad.

I've always thought that he was a traditionalist and also a wiser individual than most of the other pros.

He's got to know that anchoring really is not in the spirit of the game.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenterfyg
Shady,
I had the yips and cured them by switching to left handed putting using my right handed grip. So suck it.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
Steve is spot-on! Nobody is going to quit the game because they will be forced to swing their putter. The game is not growing because of slow play and cost. Learn the game, practice your swing, and go find a course that will enforce fast play. Do that and its a great game!
02.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenterwrapitupty
College and junior ranks have very few players anchoring, this "chock full" assertion is complete nonsense.

KenOnePutt, one of our semi-regulars, officiates at a number of college and elite junior events and he said the anchoring percentage was very low, mid-single digits if I remember correctly (or was it low single digits?). And his observation was those that were, were generally lousy putters!

Ken, can you comment on this again please?

Has Finchem ever gone on record with what his personal opinion is?
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Most posters here are experienced golfers who play frequently. (Me? not much, only mornings.)
Please remember golf is a really hard game to learn and play and nothing will ever make it easy.
PGA Tour today:
- "We're against this ban on account of no data support and it's not in the best interest of our members"
(Rationale: We will support our members who may decide to include us in any litigation should we have decided to officially support the ban)


USGA/R&A after comment period closed:
- "The anchoring ban was never based on data, more on what constitutes a 'proper stroke'. We'll implement the ban as proposed, but not until 2016 to help those needing a long transition period."
(Rationale: Take your time, but we won't be undermined. Also, we structured the proposed ban in such a way that we could brush off the 'data' argument at some point.)


PGA Tour sometime down the road:
- "While we still oppose the idea of banning anchoring, we recognize that we're not in the business of rule-making. A single set of rules is also in the best interest of the game and as such we will comply with the USGA/R&A decision."
(Rationale: We represented well, but we don't make the rules. Oh, and we're not going down the bifurcation road to the benfit of just our Tour - would look bad. Any of our tour players that are still anchoring may feel free to sue the governing bodies via class action if you like, but don't include the PGA - our position means you have no case against us.)
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPJ
Amen,
Good for you. I had a mild case of the yips and cured it with the paint brush grip. I now putt conventionally but it was dicey for a few years there. My point was, why so much anger for the anchorer? Is it really the abomination you/we are making it out to be? Despite Geoff's completely unscientific and statistically unfounded survey (which he loves to roll out every chance he can), it appears golf ears are divided on this issue. In my circle, it's 50/50. I think Finchem made a great observation - what has been the negative impact? Is golf really that much worse now with anchoring than without? Do you love the sport less?
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterShady golf
I just get a big kick out of Finchy...he looks the camera right in the eye and says "All you amatuer golfers out there...all you high handicappers...all you muny golfers...all you Wed. night men's league golfers...all you public fee golfers...all you I95 snowbirds...all you scrounges with mud caked on your irons...vote for me...I am looking out for you" It's like Bill Clinton telling us "I did NOT have sex with that woman" LOL
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
In our experience having a competitive 16-year old junior golfer son, Del is completely right in his answer to elf. No way, now how are the junior ranks running amuck with kids anchoring. In the tournaments that the Devdog plays in - New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona - he sees 1-2 kids/tournament at most anchoring. That is it.

My personal experience is that anchoring is so rare in New Mexico and Arizona (we play there 3-6 times per year) that it is somewhat of a start when someone has a belly/broom putter. If it were 20% doing it, it would cease to be noticeable. No way that 20% is right.

Also, remember who Timmy is paid by. To him, "good for the game of golf" is synonymous with "good for the PGATour."
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
I thought early in the going I remember the
AJGA make an announcement early in debate that 1-2% were using anchoring
02.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenternon profit winner
What rubbish finchem speaks. I am lucky to play golf regularly on v good courses in asia australia and Europe. I have NEVER played with anyone who used a long putter , have never seen one or indeed spoken to anyone who knows someone who uses one So "20% of amateurs would be affected" ? Not a chance. This is about selfish Pros protecting their position. Let them blunder on - the supply of those using it will be cut off at source as amateurs will not use it and the likes of Bradley will stand out as the substandard putters they are
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
@Rick/DTF my question was 100% genuine, I'm curious if there is actually any data & if so what it shows
02.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenterelf
DTF,
Here in SE PA among the D3 college golf landscape which I have been around for the last three years its common to see no more than 4-5 players per full field going mostly long versus belly, if even that. But we're not talking about a high level of play either. The lowest ranked team around here is a top 50 in F&M.

Shady,
Anchoring is not making a stroke and it is not putting. Get it out of the competitive game now and forever.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
@Brian - me too, I can't recall ever playing with someone outside the US who used an anchored stroke. MIddle East, GB&I, South Africa, Asia, Australia.

WIth respect to the touring professionals, the only tour where you see it in noticeable numbers is the Australiasian Tour.

In my opinion, the R&A will ban it for certain. 99% the USGA will ban it. All of this discussion is a moot.

This is basically a North American thing. If North America (PGA Tour, PGA of America) want to be "the home of circus golf", so be it, the rest of the world will move on without you.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAbu Dhabi Golfer
@elf -

I took your question seriously, but I don't know if there are actual data on the subject. However, anecdotally (and I know the plural of anecdote is not data) it just isn't something that we ever see in this part of the world. If we just had experience in NM then I wouldn't say anything, since everyone knows we New Mexicans are all too poor to afford long putters! :-) However, he plays enough among the junior elites in Scottsdale and Phoenix for us to note that anchoring just isn't used much. I wouldn't be surprised to see the comment above regarding the AJGA saying 1-2% to be about right, in our experience.

I'll be spending much of week after next in Scottsdale so I will report on my own data study of how many long putters I seen in my 8 rounds there....
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
Abu

Is australia part of N America now>? :)
02.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenternon profit winner
Abu

Is australia part of N America now>? :)
02.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenternon profit winner
I've played over 300 rounds of golf at Bethpage in the last 8 years and the number of players I've seen using a long putter is 5 or less -- think about that.

If there another facility anywhere more representative of "public" golf I'd like to know about it.

PS...open invite to anyone coming this way that wants to play -- even you some of you jackasses ;0). ADG, only if you submit 3 type-written pages about the 10 greatest alluvial plains in the world! And you have to wear an American flag pin on your collar, which I will provide!!
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
I will bite for the jackass invite. Need to play Red and Blue. RES?
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
I will bite for the jackass invite. Need to play Red and Blue. RES?
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner

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