The distraction to which Finchem referred was about the proposed rule that would ban anchored strokes — the kind used with long putters and belly putters. It already was a mess because three of the last five major champions used a belly putter, and because the rule would not go into effect until 2016.
But it's the debate over this proposed rule that has given some corners reason to bring up bifurcation — two sets of rules.
PGA of America president Ted Bishop polled his 27,000 members on anchoring. Just over 15 percent of them responded, and he said 63 percent opposed the ban. The USGA and Royal & Ancient write the Rules of Golf. Bishop noted that the PGA Tour didn't exist when the USGA was founded in 1894, and that the tour has a “powerful impact” on the game. He suggested golf was at a point where two sets of rules should be considered as a potential solution.
The CEO of TaylorMade suggested the USGA was “obsolete” and that the PGA of America, in conjunction with the PGA Tour, should be setting the rules. Maybe he forgot that the PGA Tour broke away from the PGA of America in 1968 because of the disconnect between tour pros and club pros.
Finchem said he thought there were certain parts of the rules that could be bifurcated “and it wouldn't hurt anything,” though maybe not in the case of anchoring.
Where will it all lead?
Finchem said the tour's objective was to keep the rules together. Bishop said in an “ideal world,” golf would be played under one set of rules.
Debate is healthy as long as it's about golf's best interest, and not financial interests. Don't get the idea that golf isn't growing because the game is too hard. That's one of its greatest appeals.
“The challenge was constant. And it never stopped being a challenge,” Arnold Palmer once said. “That was one of the things that really excited me as a kid.”
USGA president Glen Nager got to the heart of the bifurcation bluster during his speech at the USGA's annual meeting over the weekend in San Diego.
“There certainly are important issues for the golf industry to address, including economic issues, but revenue concerns arising during a broad economic slowdown should not lead us fundamentally to alter our approach to writing the rules and defining the game,” Nager said. “It is our obligation as a governing body to keep our eye on the long-term good of the game and to hold firm to what we know to be true about the essence of golf.”
In the meantime, Mickelson goes for his fifth win at Pebble Beach this week. All the stars get together for the first time in two weeks at the Match Play Championship.
And the Masters is only two months away.