Friday, January 18, 2013
Long putters on agenda
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The PGA Tour is bringing a guest speaker to its mandatory players' meeting next week at Torrey Pines -- USGA executive director Mike Davis.
A proposed rule that would ban the stroke used for belly putters and broom-handle putters is on the agenda for the Tuesday night meeting at the Farmers Insurance Open. The U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club announced in November that anchored strokes would be outlawed starting in 2016.
Davis said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and the policy board invited him to speak.
"It's just part of the process, to explain the anchoring, talk a little bit about our rationale and explain how the rule operates," Davis said Friday. "I'm going to do that and answer some questions. And then Tim is probably going to toss me out of the room and he'll talk to the players."
Typical of any proposed rule, there is a 90-day comment period before the USGA and R&A decide to adopt it. One issue for the PGA Tour and other professional circuits is whether to enact the ban on anchoring before 2016, to avoid a stigma attached to players using long putters or to have the topic become a distraction.
Three of the last five major champions -- Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship), Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (the Open Championship) used a belly putter.
Davis said he would have no input on that decision.
"It would be ludicrous for us to even intervene at all," Davis said.
Ty Votaw of the PGA Tour said having Davis would be nothing more than an "opportunity for there to be good discussion about the proposed rule." He did not say how soon the tour would work on when to implement the new rule, if it even does this year.
Player meetings are rarely contentious unless it's a divisive topic such as the introduction of drug testing in 2008. The proposed rule is a game-changer, however, with more players going to the anchored stroke in recent years. Even so, Bradley suggested a month ago that players using long putters are part of a small minority. Among players who have praised the new rule are Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker and Graeme McDowell.
Carl Pettersson said in Hawaii that the proposed rule seemed to be the product of a "witch hunt," and that it didn't seem fair to someone like him who has invested thousands of hours practicing with a long putter. It's the only method the 35-year-old Swede has used since his sophomore year in college.
Davis is not expecting any protests.
"From what the tour wants, this is just an educational thing and a chance to ask players any questions they have," he said. "I don't think it's designed for players to say how they feel about it."
Davis has been cautious not to speak publicly about the proposed rule during the comment period, which ends after the West Coast swing at the end of February. He even turned down an invitation to speak next week as part of a "State of the Game" panel at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
Davis described comments the USGA and R&A have received in the last six weeks as "very good feedback," though nothing enlightening or that has caused them to feel as though they missed something in writing the rule.
The main reason for the new rule, as Davis and R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said Nov. 28, was a concern that anchored strokes was taking away some of the skill inherent to golf. Davis said the rule simply defined what a golf stroke is supposed to be.
"I don't think I'll say anything that's going to be new," Davis said. "Then I'll leave the room, and I'm sure it will be different."