Graeme McDowell believes the growing tension between the PGA Tour and golf’s governing bodies over the proposed anchoring ban could decide who really runs the game of golf.
While the Ulsterman is against anchoring the putter to the body and feels sorry for close friend Keegan Bradley, who has been called a cheat by fans for using the method, he reckons the potential power struggle between the PGA Tour and golf’s governing bodies could make a major impact on the future of the game.
Speaking ahead of the Honda Classic, McDowell said: “I do feel for Keegan. It’s been a long, drawn out affair and it’s horrible. Getting called a cheat at Tiger’s event last year and all that stuff, it’s bang out of line.
“These guys are well within the rules right now and it’s just opened up a can of worms with the R&A and the USGA. I’d like to see them come to an agreement and set it aside for the time being until we are going to implement the rule.”
Commissioner Tim Finchem publicly announced last week that the PGA Tour is against the implementation of the proposed ban on anchoring in 2016, raising the possibility that they could ignore the USGA and the R&A and allow the method under their own rules.
That could lead to players being allowed to anchor in regular US Tour events but being forced to use a short putter for The Open and the US Open, which are run by the R&A and the USGA.
McDowell believes bifurcation could be possible by allowing clubs golfers to use the anchored putter while banning it at the top amateur level and in the professional game.
But he shudders to think what might happen if the the governing bodies go ahead and impose the rule change and the PGA Tour goes its own way.
“What’s going to happen at WGCs if the European Tour go with it, as it appears, and the PGA Tour goes against it?” McDowell wondered. “You are going to all of a sudden find out who runs world golf. Is it the PGA Tour? Is it the USGA and the R&A? Who calls the shots?
“What’s Keegan Bradley going to do at the Open and the US Open? What’s Adam Scott going to do then? Are they going to write themselves off for two weeks a year or switch to the short putter for two weeks a year?
“It’s an interesting one and I don’t know what the answer is. I just hope they can come up with an answer.”
Tiger Woods is against anchoring and bifurcation and yesterday echoed Rory McIlroy’s called for unity in the game following Finchem’s confirmation that the PGA Tour is agains the rule change.
“My position hasn’t changed,” Woods said. “I still think that it should be swung, it shouldn’t be anchored, and that hasn’t changed at all. But obviously nothing is set in stone, nothing’s firm.
“The USGA and R&A are the governing bodies of our rules, and we’ll see what happens. Hopefully we don’t have to bifurcate or adapt a local rule like we do sometimes out here on TOUR with the stones and bunkers and things of that nature. Hopefully we won’t have to do that with our putter.”
Asked about Finchem’s statements in Tucson, calling for the governing bodies to re-think, Woods said: “Yeah, I understand that. I get it. I mean, the guys that play our tour (Bradley, Webb Simspon and Ernie Els), all three of them play our tour fulltime, have won major championships with an anchored putter. I understand his position but I still feel that all 14 clubs should be swung. That hasn’t changed at all whatever.”
McDowell’s point about how things will work out if the European Tour supports the ban and the PGA Tour opposes it was expanded upon by Els, who pointed to the large number of events co-sanctioned by the European, Asian and Sunshine Tour.
The European Tour is a very global tour,” Els said. “They have over 40 events around the world, and I would say just taking a guess, I would say half of the events are cosanctioned. They are not a tour standing on their own, so for them to come out and say, you know what, they are going to go with the USGA and R&A, they are talking about on their own let’s call it, I’m guessing, half of the tournaments, which is 22 events you know, that’s another twist.
“Because what’s the Asian Tour going to do? They partner up with golf tournaments around the world in Asia. If the Asian Tour says no, they are not going to do it. What do the European Tour players do now? And same with the South African Tour.
“I’m a member of the South African Tour, and they have not made a statement, they haven’t had a meeting and they haven’t had a discussion where that’s going to go.
“There’s about seven events in South Africa or eight events in South Africa co-sanctioned with Europe, so who knows where the South African Tour is going to go. So this thing needs to be talked about a little bit and we’ll see where we go.”
Els also argued strongly against the ban, pointing that the long putter was not “a magica wand”.
“I’ve used it now for a year. When I won The Open Championship, I was 71st in putting. I made a great putt on 18 which I’ll remember for the rest of my life but I was still 71th in putting. Why I went to the belly putter was that I felt uncomfortable on shorter putts. I think I’m a little better.
‘Overall, putting, I don’t think I’ve improved to the point where I think, you know, this is a magic wand. It’s still a lot of hard work. I’ve seen the work that goes in with getting comfortable with long putters, and obviously I’ve won a lot more tournaments with the short putter.
‘So I have to support the guys using the long putters, because I’ve seen the work that goes in there, and I can’t find any specific reason for anybody to ban the putter. Webb Simpson when he won the U.S. Open, he was No. 1 in putting; and I definitely wasn’t No. 1 in putting, I was 71st.
“When Keegan won in Atlanta, I don’t know where he was in the field in putting. So this notion to ban it now, to me, is not right.”