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« Keegan Says He Continues To Be Called A Cheater | Main | Is The European Tour About To Back The Governing Bodies? »

"Finchem...opened the door to various forms of rebuttal."

With nearly 800 votes cast, 72% of readers here were not impressed with the case made by Commissioner Tim Finchem to oppose the USGA/R&A proposed ban on anchoring.

And also not impressed was's Bob Harig.

He pretty much dismantles three of Tim Finchem's key arguments for opposing the ban, from the preposterous claim that 20% of golfers use a long putter or anchor, to more nuanced stuff like previous USGA statements, and even the criticism (yours truly included) that governing bodies refused to cite stats for a performance-driven rule change.

Most interesting to me was taking on this notion that players have grown up anchoring and would essentially be victims of the big, bad governing bodies if the rule goes into effect. Harig writes:

3. Finchem said in his news conference on Sunday that "a number of players on the PGA Tour who have grown up with a focus on perfecting the anchoring method 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."

There are two points here. First, there are but a tiny few players who have "grown up" with the anchoring method. Carl Pettersson and Tim Clark are two quick examples of players who have anchored for years; Clark says a deformity in his wrists makes it very difficult for him to putt in the conventional manner.

Anchored putting has risen in the past decade, but nearly everyone you see anchoring today -- Ernie Els and Adam Scott, for example -- putted conventionally, and did so for years.

Really, how many of the well known anchorers "grew up" with a belly putter jammed into their abs?

And maybe Finchem's most nuanced whopper, also dissected by Harig:

Both in his news conference and on television, Finchem made reference to the governing body taking two separate looks at the issue. But only once has the USGA made a statement regarding long putters, and that came in 1989. It said at the time that long putters were not going to be regulated. The focus then was in equipment, not the stroke, and they said it was more about helping people who had physical ailments like back problems than trying to change how the game is played.

After you read Harig's piece I think you'll ask the same question I did: half-truths and outright dishonesty were the best a man of intelligence and intense political savvy could muster as he committed a cardinal sin against a tournament sponsor?

I'm beginning to think Finchem really doesn't care either way how this plays out, he's merely covering his tracks with the minority of anchorers who are threatening lawsuits. But if that was the case, he would not have gone so public with so much misleading or erroneous information that could be waived in his face.

Strange times indeed.

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Reader Comments (37)

On the Sunday golf broadcast Miller or someone else made a statement about the "numerous" golf rules making bodies. It is my understanding that there are only two, the USGA and the R&A. There was also inference that the two had been in conformity for many years. Again, my impression is that complete conformity was reached only in recent years.

MIller correctly emphasized that those anchoring could still use the long putter and adjust to a non-anchoring stroke, something none of the other tv people (or Finchem) mentioned.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered Commentergov. lepetomane
"Finchem really doesn't care either way how this plays out, he's merely covering his tracks with the minority of anchorers who are threatening lawsuits". As always, follow the money, or in this case the fear of losing money.
Interesting to note that Finchem did not make a specific reference to Matt Kuchar, the winner of he WGC Match Play, who uses a long putter but does not anchor it. Perhaps those who anchor should follow Kuchar's lead and adapt if the proposed rule stands. They will have time to learn and perhaps this is another money making opportunity for Kuchar to make a CD to sell his technique and the PGA teaching pros to help golfers learn this technique.
Anchoring is not a stroke IMO. Good for Kuchar.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteven T.
"This is all about the future of the game. It's about us defining the game, defining a stroke, clarifying a very controversial and divisive situation," Davis said.

As quoted by John Paul Newport in his article of 2/23 in the WSJ.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteven T.
Finchem is only following the wishes of his members?

Finchem pointed out that the USGA was in the Pga Tours charter, we are represented on their board. He mentioned the affiliation going back to when Joe Dey, former head of the USGA was the Pga Tours first commissioner.

If Finchem was serving his members best interest he certainly didn't point out to the membership that the Pga Tour has always followed USGA rules in that its in the Pga Touir's charter, if we are to believe what he said during the NBC telecast. He's been known to lie before. What he should have done when the USGA asked for the Pga Tours comments on the proposed ban was to provide this very important information to the pac board and policy board before he hung them all out to dry.

Guys, if its in our charter to always follow USGA rules, and we aren't prepared to begin testing and ruling on equipment for ourselves, what is it that you really want me to do here?

Finchem has all the pertinent information in his vault.....alll of it.....they guys that think he's taking care of them will be gnawing on bones one day.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSmoke & Mirrors
And only the self important folks at the USGA and R&A are capable of telling us what a stroke? Provide some evidence that it's detrimental to the game. It's not good enough to decide it "isn't a stroke" until after the reigning US and British Open champions anchor.

If they really want to protect the game (but only at the elite level because that's all they ever concern themselves with), then address distance.

Finchem's motives may be less than pure, but the USGA and R&A have made a mess of the situation from the very beginning.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered Commenterknottypine
@ S&M

If Finchem did reveal the relationship of the PGA Tour with the USGA that would mean 13 out of 15 on the PAC board are willing to ignore the Tour's charter. What else are they willing to ignore???
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBJ
Serious question: Who here played with anyone who had a long or mid-length putter last year? I played probably 30 rounds and played in three state tournaments, and played with exactly no one who had a long putter. 20%? 20% of the tour, maybe.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe O
Posted ~50 rounds last year and futzed around quite a bit at the golf course. In several tournaments I saw less than a handful of long putters and played with exactly one belly putterer. There were also several long putters on the practice green at a USGA qualifier that had about 35 players. Overall percentage way down in the single digits. I guess I don't play where Tim Finchem's sample plays.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
Agreed knotty pine

Up in Far Hills we can only hope that Mike Davis has the BALLS to go after these modern PHUKING BALLS that have PHUKED up the game at the elite level. So be it, it took them awhile to realise anchoring isn't a stroke, hopefully they'll soon come to the right conclusion that these modern balls are not golf balls.

For PHUK sakes Mike you tackled the Bird Man, looks like your gonna tackle the anchoring nonsense, can you sack these super balls too while your at it?
Half truths and outright dishonesty by Finchem? apparently this is a common theme among Presidents.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterConnor
If the USGA gives in to Finchem, which i don't think they will, but if they do, they might as well eliminate the USGA entirely and let the PGA makes the rules.

Not sure how the USGA could be for the ban for the good of the game and then all of a sudden reverse course just because Finchem wants to protect a select few Players from suing him.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBen
Finchem didn't grow purses, Tiger did.

Beman didn't grow golf, Arnie and Jack did.

In a nutshell, Finchem is a huge waste of jet fuel.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Truth
I think you're 100% correct on this being something that Finchem is doing to minimize damage, regardless of how it turns out. He's presenting the case of members and doing it as publicly as possible to give it some merit where it lacks in substance.

Finchem and 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.)

Finchem brushes off the dust, and moves on unscathed.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPJ
For those that want to roll back the ball - what is your desired result? The 4-iron approach on the par 4? Shorter golf courses? You do realize that if the ball is 30 yards shorter the Tour more than likely will set up the courses on the shorter tee boxes so the wedge assault will continue. As for irons, it will make little difference for Touring pros will always hit them obscenely far because they DELOFT the club at impact. I remember Payne Stewart hitting sand wedge from 150 yards at the 18th at Harbour Town (downwind, yes, but 150!) with a balata ball. With players being so physically fit, their technique so refined and their equipment so perfectly fitted, players will find a way to bomb and gouge no matter what rollback occurs. With 6 irons that have 4 iron lofts but launch it as high as an 8 iron, is the shorter ball really going to make a difference?
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterShady golf
Just a few months ago, all the right people HATED peter Dawson because he despoiled the old course. He was positively vilified for his reckless desecration of golf's holiest site.

And now? Well, Hear Ye Hear Ye!!! Listen To The King and Savior of Golf. Bow Down Before The King of The Game, Timothy!!!!

What a bunch of crap. Oh Wait!!! Hark!! Sir Monty has declared that moving balls illegally is fine but anchoring is not in the spirit of the game. And you all trumpet that Monty has this right.

Hypocrites .
02.26.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
Yes, even the less serious golfer , who only tees it up every few weeks when his old buddy from high school calls, certainly had his Mark Stepfanhagen spewing out his nose when he heard Finchem state that ''20%'', that is one in 5 use a long putter!... I would say the problem bladders had leakage situations as Timmy caused a medical conditionknown as ''peeing in you pants''.

What a bold faced lie- as I said- it was in the spirit of Rush L.---just make it up- no one will check.

Problem for Tim was, it was SO WRONG, that small children stopped, looked at the TV, and rolled on the floor laughing.
I hear the train a comin', It's rolling round the bend, And Ponte Vedra ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when, I'm stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin' on.....

Geoff, could you please repost the PGA Tour's policy board members, and its pac board members names?
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterFolsom Prison
This informal web survey keeps getting bounced out like the public is overwhelmingly behind the ban. Siince very few players use the long putter it doesn't surprise me that the results are for banning. I play a lot of golf with a lot of different guys and the guys that use it don't want the ban and 99% of the rest don't really care. An informal web survey is hardly conclusive.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjcg
It's my understanding a ball could be made that physically could not be driven >300 yards by any sort of human being or club. Perhaps I'm mistaken?
02.26.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjgw
If anchoring was banned in 1985, there would have been no issue.

Pro-anchorers argue that time has passed and that alone justifies the method.

However, in the words of Lee Majors: "Time doesn't cancel shit."
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRob
Time may not cancel shit, but you can use the rationalization to justify anything. Anchoring has been around for years. What has it hurt? How has it negatively impacted the game? What is the basis for getting rid of it beyond those of you who know how the game should be played not liking it?

Heaven forbid someone play golf in a way that runs afoul of those of you who really understand the game. All the USGA and R&A have to do is tell the world why the stroke is damaging to the game, beyond something to the effect of "We don't like it."
02.26.2013 | Unregistered Commenterknottypine
Agreed knotty. If they'd just come out and say "we don't like the way it looks, deal with it"....I'd deal with it. I wouldn't like it but at least it would be it is that's not the case.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
knottypine, It's their job to decide what they like and what they don't like. See: wooden tees, stymies, putting with a billiard cue, croquet style putting, paddle grips, chippers with two faces...
02.26.2013 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
Shady golf. Desired result is no more tees built on other courses to accomodate 350+ drives (e.g. TOC), no need to purchase adjoining land (e.g Royal Melbourne) no more riduculous set up of old style golf courses (e.g Merion). Desired result is more affordable golf, quicker rounds and more fun. Too much to ask?
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKangy Boy
Ted, Chase, Kurt, Mike, MAtt, Doc,Tom

I know there are quite a few members at our club using belly putters besides these guys.
Not 20% but have seen quite a few.

Ironically, the students above, rarely if ever ask for putting lessons

And as we keep jumping on Finchem and the tour, they have responded in the commentary period the USGA
provided, for this.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered Commenter20/20 rearview
Maybe the USGA only made a statement in 1989 regarding the long putter.

Every 4 years there are revisions of the rules.

In that time, how often does the USGA release statements about the rules they are not changing?
02.26.2013 | Unregistered Commenter20/20 rearview
All this talk about "following the rules" is such nonsense.

Is a breakfast ball in the rules? Is throwing one down rather than returning to the tee box after a lost ball in the rules? Is that mark on the flagstick that defines the gimme range in the rules? How about the guy who is 'testing' clubs so they don't count against his allowable 14. Come on, man.

Ban this thing, and allow the Local Rules or the local customs allow whatever the players want. It is how every rule is addressed at the local level anyway.

Your nerves are part of this game, and the good players will adapt. The marginal professional player just isn't worth getting worked up over. Timmy knows this, is just outwardly supporting his mediocre majority. He will be dramatic in his opposition right up until the day his players accept the fact that losing a Tim Clark won't devastate their ability to make money.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRealist
To the proponents of anchoring I say:
1) Two wrongs don't make a right. They looked the other way years ago because they felt sorry for the few who used it,
2) Get a dictionary and look up the difference between pendulum and fulcrum
3) The ball, metal woods and the like are technology issues. Anchoring is a matter of method
4) If the Tour allows anchoring their product will then be a form of golf but not real golf.
5) Having Finchem and Tour players making the rules is akin to the inmates running the asylum. They will do what is in their best interests.....not the game's integrity.
6) Looks like I may be watching a whole lot more of the LPGA and European Tour
02.26.2013 | Unregistered Commenterrtbgolf68
What integrity is that you speak of?
The R&A not allowing women
The PGA charging thousands for their members to join while making minimum wage. While leadership makes bank?
The USGA forcing changes at great golf courses due to their being asleep at the wheel?
The cost of golf in this country, which chases people from the game
No Jews, No Blacks, No Women, Jewish only clubs?
Palmer promoting the ERC but being against the ban? (he's ok again!)
02.26.2013 | Unregistered Commenter20/20 rearview
There is no if the the tour allows anchoring, at this point. The USGA and R&A currently allow it and will continue to do so through all of 2015. Has the golf that has been played up to this point by those using anchored strokes not real?
02.26.2013 | Unregistered Commenterknottypine
Can we ban loudmouth pants and sorts to "protect" the game and it future?
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark
The most interesting part of the interview was when Johnny Miller basically said that an anchored putter wasn't a stroke, and Tim Finchem basically muttered that the USGA thought it was 35+ years ago, when the issue first came up. That's the heart of the matter, it seems to me -- everything else is white noise. America's governing body and protector of the rules/spirit of the game decided this issue long ago that they are now pretending they didn't is embarrassing and disingenuous. Maybe if they cut all ties with the past and re-branded themselves as "Golf America" their words and decisions might have more authority.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeter
@peter slavery was legal for a long time before it was decided to be wrong. a lot of people deemed it to be ok before it was finally outlawed.

the logic that it was legal for so long so the rule shouldn't be changed might be the most ignorant argument.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBen
Drawing a comparison between slavery and anchoring putters might be the most ignorant thing I've heard.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered Commenterknottypine
Ben - as per knottypine's point, slavery was an abomination that was recognized as such by many people who had to wait until a government with the courage and morals to change it came to power; anchoring is a concept that's part of a game, and that game's governing body -- the same one, then as now -- decided/rule on the issue long ago. I have yet to hear from the USGA a persuasive argument/explanation of why they were wrong then and why they'd be right now.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeter
rearview - I was under the impression the discussion was about anchoring....not society's ills. Your analysis is the typical distraction tactic used by those with weak arguments.
03.1.2013 | Unregistered Commenterrtbgolf68

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