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Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Updated: December 20, 4:29 PM ET
Will pro tours follow anchor ban?

ESPN.com

Now that we're a few weeks removed from the controversial decision by the USGA and R&A to ban the anchoring of clubs to the body starting in 2016, many questions have arisen about how that move might change golf.

Will the professional tours around the globe go along with the decision? Could golf see a bifurcation of the rules where the pros play by one set and amateurs another? Our experts tackle those topics and more in a special edition of Four-Ball.


1. Fact or fiction: The PGA Tour will go along with the governing bodies and ban anchor.

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Fact. Even though I wish it was fiction. Now the Champions Tour might be a different story and if it doesn't follow the ban, the PGA Tour could follow suit if there is no uproar from fans.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Fact. There might be a battle down the road between these two bodies on the ball and the driver, but this isn't a rule that the PGA Tour's policy board should fight.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Fact. The PGA Tour has always gone along with the governing bodies, or in its specific case, the United States Golf Association. To do so would be a huge departure from its stated goals to play by the rules set forth and not make the rules.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Fact, but I'm hoping it'll be fiction. Traditionally the tour plays by the Rules of Golf and to break from that would be a surprise. The one thing that keeps gnawing at me is that if I'm PGA Tour commish Tim Finchem, I have to answer to the players. And if enough of his constituents come out against it, Finchem would have to at least consider the possibility of diverging from tradition in this case.


2. Should the governing bodies bifurcate the rules?

Michael Collins: Yes. What the most elite of the elite do on a weekly basis is not what's needed to grow the game of golf to the masses. Make the game easy for amateurs. Make them want to play and bring friends. You think they're going to stop watching the pros on TV if they're using different equipment?

Farrell Evans: No. All golfers should play under one set of rules. Period.

Bob Harig: No, one of golf's charms is that we play by the same rules as the pros. The same equipment that is legal for them is legal for us and we play the game by the same rules on the course. This is really more about whether the PGA Tour or European Tour should change the rules to fit their players. All sports leagues set their own rules, but the golf tours choose to play under the rules set up for the masses.

Kevin Maguire: An unequivocal yes. What's wrong with the pros playing by harder, more demanding rules? That's why they're the pros. That's why they play from the tips and we don't (or at least shouldn't). Separate rules won't hurt the game at either level.


3. When do you expect PGA Tour pros who currently anchor will switch back to the conventional putter?

Michael Collins: Every pro is different. Some, like Webb Simpson -- who has a ton of time now that he's won the U.S. Open (and the five-year exemption on tour that comes with it) -- could switch when we first see him on tour next year. Some, like Keegan Bradley might try and knock out as many more wins as possible with the anchored belly putter to get more years of exemption and wait until 2016 to switch.

Farrell Evans: Four years is a long time in a golf career. Traditionalists can carry placards inscribed with "anchoring is cheating" at every PGA Tour event, but players aren't going to change until they are ready.

Bob Harig: It depends. Some are going to take advantage of the rules that allow them time to transition. And there should be nothing wrong with that. As long as the rules permit it, the players should be allowed to switch at their own pace. After all, they've been playing with a stroke deemed legal and, officially, won't be illegal for some time. But others will switch sooner simply because they'll get comfortable sooner.

Kevin Maguire: I suspect most -- maybe 80-85 percent -- will change over by the end of the 2013 season. They'll tinker with the short putter and once they feel comfortable, they'll make the switch as Webb Simpson said recently. The last thing any pro wants is to have this ruling hanging over them and then be forced into the change. It'll be hard practicing with two different putters, so they'll want to get comfortable with the shorter flatstick as soon as possible.


4. Does a belly putter actually produce an advantage?

Michael Collins: Absolutely not. It's snake oil for putting. I've given a pro a 7-iron and made him putt with it when he couldn't make a putt with his own putter. He drained 10 in a row ... with his 7-iron from 5 feet! Putting is even more mental than the full golf swing. If you believe you can do something better with this compared to that, guess what? You can. You know why he made all those "putts" with the 7-iron? Because when you tell a pro to get the ball in hole with the "wrong" club, the subconscious takes over. Sounds deep, but it's not.

Farrell Evans: No. Bellies just help struggling and poor putters cure the yips and become more consistent putters.

Bob Harig: Yes, if it is anchored. To have one part of the club held against the body or one hand against the body makes it easier to repeat a stroke. While so many other factors go into putting -- such as pace and reading the line -- the putting stroke under pressure is inherently going to be easier if both hands are not away from the body. And that is essentially the reason the governing bodies want to ban the anchored stroke.

Kevin Maguire: Simply put -- yes. Any time you can minimize the amount of swing you have to put on a club, that will help your chances for pulling off the shot. If pros need a little more control on an iron shot, what do they do? They might hit a little knock down. Less swing equals more control. That counts for drivers all the way to putters.