PGA Tour adopts anchoring ban

The PGA Tour announced Monday that it will implement the ban of anchored strokes beginning Jan. 1, 2016, opting not to go against golf's governing bodies and adhere to the rules set forth by the United States Golf Association and R&A.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who in February expressed the tour's desire that the proposed ban be rescinded, said the PGA Tour's policy board came to the decision during a meeting at the Greenbrier Classic.

But Finchem also strongly suggested that the USGA/R&A should consider extending the time period for amateur players beyond Jan. 1, 2016.

"In making its decision, the Policy Board recognized that there are still varying opinions among our membership, but ultimately concluded that while it is an important issue, a ban on anchored strokes would not fundamentally affect a strong presentation of our competitions or the overall success of the PGA Tour," Finchem said in a statement. "The Board also was of the opinion that having a single set of rules on acceptable strokes applicable to all professional competitions worldwide was desirable and would avoid confusion."

The issue of anchored strokes -- seen among players who use a belly putter or a long putter -- has been a contentious one since the USGA and R&A's joint announcement in November that it was proposing a ban to begin with a new rules cycle in 2016, Rule 14-1b. Many prominent players, including Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, were vocal in their displeasure for the rules change, given that the practice has been allowed for decades and there is no discernible statistical evidence that suggests the method is a benefit.

Four of the past seven major winners, including Scott at this year's Masters, used an anchored stroke. The USGA and R&A have said anchored-stroke putting flies in the face of the traditions of the game.

Nonetheless, there existed the possibility that the PGA Tour -- which has always followed the rules of the governing bodies -- could go its own way and not implement the ban. The PGA of America, which runs the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup when it is played in America, also had fought the rules change, but last week said it would defer to the PGA Tour.

By adopting the change, the PGA Tour avoids a potentially messy situation where the rules could be different in regular PGA Tour events and major championships.

But it also left open that very possibility in the future.

"Although the Board has elected to follow the USGA in this case at the elite level, it continues to be mindful of its responsibility to review future rule changes that might be adopted by the USGA in order to determine whether they should apply to PGA Tour competitions," Finchem said. "It is not inconceivable that there may come a time in the future when the Policy Board determines that a rule adopted by the USGA, including in the area of equipment, may not be in the best interests of the PGA Tour and that a local rule eliminating or modifying such a USGA rule may be appropriate.

"Having said that, we have been assured by the USGA that as we move forward we will have an open and effective communication process on a number of levels with the decision makers at the USGA. Importantly, this will include a direct communication between the Commissioner's Office of the PGA Tour and the USGA Executive Committee. Such a process will ensure that our position is fully and carefully considered and addressed in future rule making."

Finchem said he hopes the governing bodies will offer a longer grace period to recreational players, as it did in the case of nonconforming grooves, which were banned starting in 2010 but are allowed for recreational players until 2024.

"The Policy Board continues to believe that extending the time period the ban would go into effect for amateurs would be beneficial for golf participation and the overall health of the game," Finchem said.

The tour still could enact the ban earlier. Later this year, the PGA Tour is going to a wrap-around schedule, meaning the new season begins in the fall. For the 2015-16 season, there would possibly be a period of several events where anchoring is allowed before it is banned starting on Jan. 1, 2016.