Michaux: PGA Tour comes off as pompous in anchor ban statement

Does the PGA Tour and its commissioner ever listen to what they say? Sometimes it would be better to just keep it to themselves.


In acknowledging the rational decision by its policy board to adhere to the rules of golf and apply the anchoring ban on Jan. 1, 2016, as established jointly by the USGA and R&A, the tour couldn’t stop itself from sticking its nose in where it doesn’t belong and sounding pompous in the process.

First, it pleaded for “more time” for amateurs, who the last time anyone checked were not under the purview of the “professional” tour. As if the tour really cares what we do in our daily dogfights at the local muni.

Second, it reserved the right to go rogue in the future and make its own set of rules should the governing bodies make any other changes the tour doesn’t like. It’s a transparent tactic to strong-arm influence future policy on equipment.

The tour clearly believes that the game and its millions of golfers around the world revolve around its hundreds of tour professionals.

“Although the board has elected to follow the USGA in this case at the elite level, it continues to be mindful of its responsibility to review future rule changes that might be adopted by the USGA in order to determine whether they should apply to PGA Tour competitions,” Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour commissioner, said in a statement. “It is not inconceivable that there may come a time in the future when the policy board determines that a rule adopted by the USGA, including in the area of equipment, may not be in the best interests of the PGA Tour and that a local rule eliminating or modifying such a USGA rule may be appropriate.

“Having said that, we have been assured by the USGA that as we move forward we will have an open and effective communication process on a number of levels with the decision makers at the USGA. Importantly, this will include a direct communication between the commissioner’s office of the PGA Tour and the USGA executive committee. Such a process will ensure that our position is fully and carefully considered and addressed in future rule making.”

What a self-righteous and intimidating little statement that is. The PGA Tour is acting exactly like a deep-pocketed special interest lobbyist on Capitol Hill, trying to steer (or block) policy for its own benefit. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t tour pros just constituents of this great game like all the rest of us?

Frankly, you do not want the PGA Tour at that bargaining table because it does not represent our best interests. If it did, perhaps it would set a better example on pace of play or charge more reasonable greens fees to play TPC Sawgrass.

The policy board should be commended for making the only proper decision it could on accepting the new rule regarding anchored strokes.

“The board also was of the opinion that having a single set of rules on acceptable strokes applicable to all professional competitions worldwide was desirable and would avoid confusion,” Finchem said.

Yet the board had no problem in promoting confusion by asking the USGA and R&A to consider extending the use of anchored strokes for amateurs beyond the established 2016 start date.

It cited the graduated process of implementing the grooves rule that went into effect for pros in 2010 but won’t reach recreational players until 2024.

This was clearly a way of currying favor with fellow anchor-ban opponent, the PGA of America – which deferred to the PGA Tour on whether to adhere to the newly established rules. The PGA believes banning anchored strokes will hurt participation in the game – despite no evidence to suggest golfers will quit playing the game because it’s too hard. That reality hasn’t stopped anyone from playing for centuries.

But the anchor ban – which establishes a foundation for what a valid stroke is – is nothing like the groove modifications.

The groove extension for recreational play was to avoid forcing amateurs to have to go out and buy an expensive new set of clubs because their current ones were suddenly deemed illegal. Most recreational players go years (or decades) between buying new sets of irons, while PGA Tour pros get new clubs for free any time they want.

At the risk of making a gross generalization, just about every recreational owner of a long or belly putter has another one (or three) already in the garage that can accommodate a conforming stroke without having to make another costly investment.

So get off the high horse, tour. It doesn’t suit you.

Finchem and the PGA Tour would have done better not trying to get the last word in on this issue.

Next time it releases a statement to “follow the rules for the good of the game,” try to avoid adding “until we decide to not follow the rules for the good of ourselves.”

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