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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The European Tour Drops Anchor

The potential for putter chaos has officially begun.

The European Tour released their official statement about the proposed anchoring ban, which you can read here. It reads in part:
The European Tour has confirmed its support for the R&A and the USGA and their proposal for rule 14-1b – the prohibition of anchoring any club when making a stroke under the Rules of Golf....
“We understand the points put forward by the PGA Tour and the PGA of America and respect and sympathise with their views, which are based on their experience and the evidence before them, and have been expressed with great concern for the game. The whole issue has received far greater focus and comment in the United States than in the rest of the world, perhaps because of the numbers of their golfers using the anchored method, and the set up in general terms of their golf courses and the firmness and speed of their greens.”
Of course, this isn't a shock. The ET had already indicated, earlier in 2012, that they were in favor of an anchoring ban and were considering making it a rule of their own anyway.

But with the PGA Tour and the PGA of America already announcing their opposition to such a ban (referenced in the ET statement), there is now a real possibility of "rules bifurcation" between tours rather than between amateurs and pros. I say "possibility" because the PGA Tour could still decide to go along with the ban if it indeed goes into effect; the Tour left that possibility open in their statement.

Nevertheless, it's clear that the hornet's nest has been given a solid smack. If the USGA and the R&A go ahead with the proposed ban, and the PGA Tour, PGA of America, and European Tour stay true to the intent of their official statements, here's what we're looking at:
  • The US Open (sanctioned by the USGA) won't allow anchoring.
  • The Open Championship (sanctioned by the R&A) won't allow anchoring.
  • The PGA Championship (sanctioned by the PGA of America) will allow anchoring.
  • The Masters could go either way.
  • Events co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and ET will have to decide, though it's likely the events either won't allow anchoring or will cease to be co-sanctioned.
  • All other PGA Tour events will allow anchoring.
  • All other ET events won't allow anchoring.
Presumably, without official statements having been made by the other tours around the world, it's probably safe to assume that events co-sanctioned with the ET won't allow anchoring, and events go-sanctioned with the PGA Tour might go either way.

And it might have an unexpected side effect: Players from around the world who want to use the anchored putters may well stop playing in Europe and focus on the US tour. That could have serious financial repercussions for ET events, as sponsors debate following the big name players who use anchored putters. I'll be surprised if this doesn't become a major issue before it's all over.

In other words, we could be on the verge of a huge mess. Anchoring could end up being more like a millstone around golf's neck. It's going to be interesting to see how this finally plays out.

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