Leave the long putters alone, was basically what the PGA Tour said to the USGA and R&A in a letter sent to the two rules-making organizations regarding the proposed ban on anchored strokes for long putters.
According to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem a dozen of the 15 on the Players Advisory Council (PAC) voted in favor of the notification.
“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,” Finchem explained. “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.”
The PGA of America and Golf Course Owners Association have agreed with the PGA Tour.
“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,” he stated. “They've asked us to give our comments. All we're doing at this point is saying this is our opinion.”
One reason for the decision on part of the PAC is that there have been no studies to show that there is a competitive advantage by using the long putter. Their other reasons have to do with growth of the game and enjoyment of the game issues.
According to data the PGA Tour reviewed, 20 percent of amateurs are using long putters.
“Thousands of people have gravitated to the method,” he said.
The PGA Tour does track putting stats.
“What the data shows is there isn't an anchoring putter on the PGA Tour that's in the top quartile in putting stats,” he confirmed.
Therefore, it does not offer a competitive advantage over the fields.
“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 as part of it for the last 30 or 40 years,” he added. “You can't point to one negative impact of anchoring.”
Further, Finchem pointed out, the USGA had opportunities several times since the initial use of the long putters back in the 1970's and 1980's to make a rule against the equipment or the stroke, and it chose not to rule against it then. The PAC members determined it was not reasonable for the use of the club to be restricted now.
When asked whether the PGA Tour would adopt its own regulation regarding use of long and belly putters, Finchem answered, “Our (PGA Tour regulations provide that we will follow the rules as promulgated by the USGA provided, however, we retain the right not to in certain instances if we see fit.”
He added that they have not begun those kinds of discussion and believe that since this is the period of comment that there is still a chance that the USGA and/ or R&A will change their opinion.
“There's no reason to assume that everybody is going to go down different paths,” he added. “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.”
Finchem has said several times that the PGA Tour prefers to play under the Rules of Golf.
“We believe in the notion that one body of rules is important, and that's always our intent. We just reserve the option not to, if we have overriding reasons not to do so. And that's happened a couple of times,” he said earlier this year.
The times that it has happened, according to Finchem, had to do with the one ball rule and with the grooves rules.
“I'm not so sure bifurcation is important in this particular case, but we're not at a point yet where I am opining on what we think we should do,” he added. “I think we're in an information‑gathering process right now, and it would be premature for me to speculate on that.”
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.