It didn’t take long for vocal opponents of the anchoring ban that was passed into law Tuesday morning by the USGA and R&A to react to the announcement. It will take much longer to decide what they plan to do about it.
There will be no big bang like Monday evening’s Victoria Day fireworks, more of a slow burn before anything, if anything, is done about it in defiance of golf’s governing bodies.
As expected, Tuesday morning’s announcement was a dud, with representatives of the USGA and R&A simply reiterating what they said when they first made the proposal last November before a 90-day comment period commenced on this divisive issue.
The most high profile dissenter, the PGA Tour, merely acknowledged the decision with a statement on Tuesday. The PGA of America, representing American club pros, took it one step beyond that.
“We are disappointed with this outcome,” said a statement from PGA of America president Ted Bishop.
“As we have said publicly and repeatedly during the comment period, we do not believe 14-1b is in the best interest of recreational golfers and we are concerned about the negative impact it may have on both the enjoyment and growth of the game,” it said.
A statement from PGA of Canada president Gregg Schubert echoed Bishop’s thoughts. You can read that statement here.
Beyond that, the reaction was buried in political correctness as the opposing groups commended the USGA and R&A for the comment period and emphasized their good working relationships with the governing associations. For now, opponents of the ban are living to fight another day.
“We will now begin our process to ascertain whether the various provisions of Rule 14-1b will be implemented in our competitions and, if so, examine the process for implementation,” said the tour statement.
“In this regard, over the next month we will engage in discussions with our player advisory council and policy board members,” it said.
“We will announce our position regarding the application of Rule 14-1b to our competitions upon conclusion of our process and we will have no further comment on the matter until that time,” said the statement.
Meanwhile, the PGAs of Canada and America say they will discuss the issue with their members, zones and among their respective boards of directors.
By no means does a final decision by the USGA and R&A mean that this is a done deal, even if it is stalled by protocol.
The possibility exists that players who have used the anchored putting stroke for years could take the PGA Tour to court if it goes along with the ban, saying it will negatively affect their livelihoods.
Meanwhile, other players such as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have sided with the governing associations on the ban and USGA president Glen Nager reacted to charges that they waited too long over the decades that anchoring has been allowed.
“We have heard and genuinely empathize with those who will need to adjust, but the understandable objections of these relative few cannot prevent adoption of a rule that will serve the best interests of the entire game going forward,” said Nager.
Legal challenges aren’t the only possible fallout. Should the tour and the PGA of America decide to go in a different direction, it affects uniformity of rules.
The U.S. Open and British Open, runs by the USGA and R&A respectively, would not allow anchoring, while the PGA Championship, run by the PGA of America, would allow it. The Masters has yet to make a decision on the matter.
The ban will also put the RBC Canadian Open into an awkward position.
Golf Canada, which runs the Open, has a seat on the joint rules committee that includes the USGA and R&A, but the national championship is a PGA Tour event, so the Open could conceivably allow anchoring in defiance of a rule that Golf Canada voted on.
Those are among the possible scenarios that could play out due to this ban and if you see smoke emerging from behind the shield of political correctness that was put up on Tuesday, don’t be surprised.
Despite the PGA of America’s niceness about the comment period, Bishop and Dawson took part in a public feud in the weeks leading up to the final decision.
Will the dissenters now just roll over and play dead as they have on equipment issues in the past or will they usurp the traditional power held by the USGA and R&A by breaking ranks, albeit slowly? Don’t be surprised if it’s the latter, but don’t tell that to Nager.
“We can’t speculate about what others are going to do. We can only try to do the right thing for the game, which is what we’re trying to do now,” he said.
“Two, we’ve been writing the Rules of Golf and setting the gold standard in the Rules of Golf for over 100 years and all of the other organizations that you’ve referred to have chosen to play by our rules because they know they’re the gold standard,” said Nager.