Updated: February 18, 2013, 2:15 PM ET

Dissension in golf's ranks on anchor ban?

By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

Professional golfers don't always play by rules practiced by everyday golfers, but they have always played by the Rules of Golf -- whether they be written by the United States Golf Association or the R&A.

Webb Simpson
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireThe Webb Simpson's of the world -- as one of numerous players who use an anchored putting stroke -- might become part of a growing controversy surrounding the proposed anchor ban if the PGA Tour were to part ways from USGA and R&A oversight of golf.

That is an important distinction as the PGA Tour mulls the idea of perhaps going against the USGA/R&A proposed anchoring ban.

The PGA Tour's policy board was scheduled to meet Monday via conference call, with discussion expected to center around the anchored putting ban and whether the tour should push for the governing bodies not to implement it -- or go against it if they do.

The latter would be unprecedented.

The PGA Tour has never gone against the Rules of Golf.

Sure, there are numerous local rules enacted on the PGA Tour, such as preferred lies (lift, clean and place) or the one-ball rule or playing embedded lies "through the green" -- as opposed to in closely mown areas. But the Rules of Golf accommodate for such.

That wouldn't be the case with the proposed anchoring ban; Rule 14-1b would cover Anchoring the Club. "In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either directly or by use of an anchor point." There are no exceptions as it is written currently.

For the PGA Tour to allow anchoring in such a scenario, it would be enacting its own rules and ignoring the USGA rules book. And while it is certainly within the tour's right to make its own rules -- all sports leagues make their own rules -- it has always followed the governing bodies.

But Brad Faxon, a longtime PGA Tour member who now competes on the Champions Tour, believes the tour and commissioner Tim Finchem might now be ready to force the issue. Faxon, writing a first-person story for golf.com, said there has been considerable pushback on anchoring, which was first proposed Nov. 28. The three-month comment period on the proposal will conclude at the end of this month.

"The most heavy-handed way he could persuade the USGA to drop the proposed ban, and I would normally never describe Tim Finchem as heavy-handed, would be by convincing the Tour Policy Board on Monday that the tour should tell the USGA the following: If the USGA goes through with this ban, the PGA Tour will very likely consider creating our own condition of competition that will allow anchored putting on the PGA Tour, the Web.com Tour and Champions Tour," Faxon wrote. "If that happens, there will be chaos. The USGA could quickly lose its authority as the governing body of American golf."

As Faxon pointed out, there is no consensus among players. Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are among many who agree with an anchoring ban. Phil Mickelson is against it -- not because he uses an anchored putter, but because he believes it has been allowed for too long.

Ernie Els, who 10 years ago famously chided countryman Trevor Immelman for using an anchored stroke and as recently as 18 months ago spoke against anchoring even while using a bellly putter, has now changed his mind. Tim Clark was said to have made a compelling argument against banning at a player meeting in San Diego several weeks ago.

Els, for one, says there is no compelling evidence to suggest that anchoring is an advantage; the USGA and R&A believe it is more a proper putting stroke. Recent major winners such as Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson are also against the ban.

"Personally, I am in favor of the proposed ban," wrote Faxon, long considered one of the game's best putters. "I believe lodging the butt end of the putter in your navel, or holding it against your chest or chin, does not constitute a traditional golf swing and is not in the inherent nature of what we could call a 'swing.' Yes, there have been many changes in golf over the centuries, but the fundamental nature of how you hold the club and the unencumbered way you make a swing have been remarkably consistent ever since featheries and gutties were rolling down fairways in Scotland."

Many share Faxon's view. Many don't.

And what seemed like a fairly cut-and-dried issue a few months ago -- an anchoring ban had been expected for months -- is far from decided.

Golf in the Olympics

The news last week that the International Olympic Committee would be booting wrestling from the Games starting in 2020 came as a big shock to those who follow such issues closely. Somehow, however, golf and its inclusion became part of the story.

In several instances, golf was mentioned negatively as among the reasons wrestling is suffering such a cruel fate.

While golf does have its issues as it relates to the Olympics, it is hard to make the leap that it is the reason for wrestling's demise. Golf went through a process of more than two years to get accepted, and officially was awarded a spot in 2009, more than three years ago. Golf will be part of the 2016 games in Brazil. Wrestling also will be part of those Games. So how is golf to blame?

Golf does have to figure some things out if it wants to survive beyond 2020. It doesn't help that construction on the venue for the games in Rio has yet to begin. And the format remains controversial, as there are 60-player stroke-play events for men and women, with no team component.

Another negative is that golf in the Olympics will never be the ultimate event in the sport. Certainly in the short term, it will never surpass winning a major championship. Even in 50 years, it is hard to believe that a gold medal could surpass a green jacket or a Claret Jug.

And yet, the impact of the Olympics for golf goes beyond the professional game. Governments who value medals will spend money to develop players, just as they do now for gymnasts or track athletes. Players from other countries, in theory, will aspire to play golf because it is an Olympic sport.

That is of no consolation to wrestling. But it's hard to see how the two are related.