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.