I've been doing this blogging thing a while and after reading a variety of things today, I've seen a day arrive in golf that I never thought would come: PGA Tour players wanting to make the rules for their sport because the big, bad governing bodies are meanies!
Bear with me. There is a lot to digest, but think big picture as you read these comments and I gurantee your jaw will drop.
The most telling comments came from PGA Tour policy board member Steve Stricker, who revealed some key points from Monday's board discussion over the anchoring ban and possible tour opposition to the rule change proposed by the governing bodies.
STEVE STRICKER: It's not surprising, I guess, because of all the things that players have gotten to learn about since this has come about. I was the same way; I was for the ban to start with, and my decision or my feeling is swayed a little bit, also.
I think the timing of it is poor. We're at a point in time in the game of golf that we're trying to keep players, lure players into playing the game, and we all feel‑‑ a majority of the players feel that it only puts a negative spin on that, maybe detracts the local guy, the club member, the public player, whoever, from playing at times.
And this rule has been good for 30 years or so, so yeah, I guess the more information that we've received, I think it's swayed a lot of the players' opinions.
And to your second question, I can see us adopting‑‑ I don't know if that's going to happen. Don't even know if the USGA is going to go ahead with the rule change. But I can see the TOUR adopting the rule saying that it's okay for players to use a long putter. And we have probably a couple other rules out here on our hard card that are different from USGA rules, too, and this wouldn't be any different, I guess.
That's right, the PGA Tour might position itself as saying the game is just too hard for some people who play for millions each week and their athletes need a crutch that you too can purchase!
Have they not seen any fan polling? There has not been a single survey suggesting a majority sympathizes with the plight of the anchorer.
Here;s where I smell Stricker conveying Commissioner Image-Over-Integrity's views.
Our game out here on TOUR is pretty strong. A lot of the‑‑ not a lot, but there's a couple players that have won majors with a long putter, and they're faces of our TOUR. And to take that away, I think, is not a good thing for our TOUR or our sport at this time.
So that right, because some of the anchorers are stars that fit the Commissioner's ideals--Scott, Simpson, Bradley, Els--the tour might oppose this. Think about how amazing that is. The governing bodies are sticking up for those who have the heart and skill to putt one way, but because some players who are draws have found success through questionable means, we want to look the other way. What a shame John Daly's not an anchorer!
Here's the fun scenario to envision, and why I think the USGA and R&A hold stronger hands than the white-belt-wearing set seems to grasp.
Q. Thirdly, one last thing on the anchoring thing, when you speak of the oddities and kind of the choppiness of it, what about the idea that someone like Webb Simpson could play the PGA TOUR and then go back to the U.S. Open that he's won and not use it?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, that is a concern, right. That is a concern for all of us, that if the USGA goes ahead with the rule, what happens to those events, and what are we going to do? Are we going to change that rule? I mean, there's really no indication from our TOUR or Tim on what we're going to do yet. I mean, I know where the majority of the players stand, it sounds like, from yesterday's call. And I know that they're drafting up a letter to send to the USGA and the R&A to kind of voice our position as a TOUR. But after that we still don't know where it's going to lead us to, and it's going to be interesting.
But that is one of the possibilities of being able to anchor out here on TOUR, I guess, and then go to a major championship and not be able to anchor, which would be pretty weird. And for those players to try to make that change is going to be pretty tough on them.
Imagine the USGA/R&A holding their ground, enacting the rule and the PGA Tour becomes the place where skill is secondary because some of the tour's biggest "faces" anchor?
What's next, no PGA Tour equipment regulations because the prime faces of the tour are long hitters? Slippery slope!
Rex Hoggard talked to Policy Board member Paul Goydos who advocated rules made by a committee, not the governing bodies.
“I have said all along, take anchoring out of the equation, is this the best way to make rules for our sport? Should the PGA Tour make its own rules? No. Should the PGA Tour and the PGA of America and the USGA and R&A and journalist be involved? I think so,” said Paul Goydos, one of four player directors on the Policy Board. “I don’t think this is the way we should be writing rules for our sport.”
Joe Ogilvie made a similar statement.
“The rhetoric among the players is the highest it’s ever been,” said PAC member Joe Ogilvie. “The question is why are we governed by an amateur organization? I praise what the R&A and USGA have done over the years. They have been wonderful stewards of the game, but is this the best way?”
Isn't it going to be fun to see what other rules the PGA Tour's finest would like to concoct to make the game better?
Even Tiger Woods--a major supporter of the proposed ban--seemed numbed by the news. Or maybe it was the relentless rally killer who started off his presser?
Q. Would you be disappointed if the TOUR decided to go against the USGA?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I understand if we go either way. We put in local rules every week, and this may or may not be a local rule, but we'll see what happens.
Finally, check out Rick Reilly's latest column on this. Sadly, only the mobile version is currently working.
Look what Phil Mickelson told Reilly, who sees anchoring as cheating:
"If we start to play the game with a completely different set of rules -- using balls that don't go as far, grooves that spin less, and putters that aren't as efficient -- why would people come out and watch us?"
There is a point where you have to wonder if a third party--say, manufacturers--are pushing their players into this virutal tizzy over a pretty minor rule change. For someone as wise as Phil to think that people would stop coming because the governing bodies tried to ensure skill matters, speaks to a disconnect from what serious golf fans enjoy.
Finally, this was most telling from Reilly's piece. Quoting Kevin Stadler:
"I literally can't get it into the hole with a short putter," he says. "The last time I used it [at USC], I averaged 37 putts a round. When I switched, the hole went from looking like a dime to a bucket. I have no idea what I'd do for a living without it."
Look, golf is hard. Nobody knows that more than me. Putting is hard because the stupid golf ball just sits there, not even moving. It's the pressure, the nerves, the bets that make hitting it into the little hole so impossible. Used to be a guy like Bernhard Langer would get the yips and retire to the broadcast booth. Now, he gets out the wonder wand and plays 20 more years.