By John Strege
The overriding question that evolved from the extensive coverage of the PGA Tour's response to the USGA regarding a ban on anchoring the putter was this: Why couldn't this have waited until Monday?
Photo by Getty Images
What an odd final day for one of the showcase events in professional golf, one that carries the prestigious designation of World Golf Championship. The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship began on Wednesday with 64 of the best players in the world and ended on Sunday with PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem making the most news.
In the midst of the Match Play final between Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan (Kuchar prevailed, 2 and 1), Finchem held a news conference outlining the PGA Tour's position on the USGA's proposal. Then he was summoned to the NBC booth for an extensive discussion that relegated the golf to a secondary role.
"We did give the USGA our position last week and our board and player advisory council concluded that we should be opposed to it, which we articulated," Finchem said. "We're very supportive of the USGA. We hold it in high regard. We were asked our opinion and we feel strongly that going down that road would be a mistake.
"If there's one thing that would prevail across a lot of our players and a lot of our board members is that it's been around for a generation and the game of golf has done quite well. Unless you have a compelling reason to change we shouldn't. And the USGA has indicated there's no performance advantage to using anchoring . . . What the data shows is there isn't an anchoring putter on the PGA Tour that's in the top quartile in the putting stats."
OK, but why now, when this viewpoint was relayed to the USGA several days earlier? Finchem might have been using the WGC television stage to bolster the tour's position by lobbying golfers at large.
The USGA countered via Twitter, then with a statement that read in part: "We continue to listen to varying points of view, and have had many productive conversations across the golf community, which is a reminder of just how much people care about the game - regardless of their position on this issue.
"As we consider the various perspectives on this issue, it has always been our position that Rule 14-1b aims to clarify and preserve the traditional and essential nature of the golf stroke, which has helped to make golf a unique and enjoyable game of skill and challenge."
So we have an apparent stalemate, with the next move up to the USGA. It said it would have a final ruling in the spring, and should it choose to stand by its intention to ban anchoring, it would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2016, nearly three years hence.
So, again, why the urgency for Finchem to outline the tour's position? Would his urgency have been the same had it been Rory vs. Tiger rather than Kuchar vs. Mahan in the final?
So it was less than compelling, a match between two players who weren't ranked in the top 20, one of them, Kuchar, taking a 4-up lead through eight holes to quell the drama for much of the afternoon. Was that sufficient for Finchem to interject himself into the proceedings by calling a news conference?
For an old political hand from the Carter administration, one apparently set on working the crowd, the answer was yes.