The European Tour will not join forces with the PGA Tour and oppose the proposed anchoring ban suggested by the US Golf Association and the R&A, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity at the London-based tour.
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George O’Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, would not confirm his organization’s position during an interview at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. However, he hasn’t received nearly the level of opposition from his membership that his counterpart, Tim Finchem, has heard on the American tour.
"I’ve talked to our top players . . . and I haven’t had a lot of people who think it should be banned," O’Grady said last week in Marana, Ariz. "My door hasn’t been beaten down saying we must repel this."
During a news conference Sunday at the Match Play event, Finchem said the PGA Tour has asked the USGA and R&A to rescind their call for a ban on the anchored stroke when the Rules of Golf are updated Jan. 1, 2016. A 90-day comment period ends Feb. 28, and golf’s ruling bodies intend to make a decision in the spring.
An estimated 18 percent of PGA Tour players use the anchored putting stroke, but the number is roughly half that among European Tour members. Three of the past five major champions — Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA), Webb Simpson (2012 US Open) and Ernie Els (2012 British Open) — used the anchored stroke.
Much of the shoulder-shrugging reaction among the European Tour members relates to the different course conditions on their tour.
"It’s not such a big deal, in my opinion, in Europe because of the course setups," O’Grady said. "Very rarely can you get greens as firm and fast as you can in the States."
The European Tour’s Board of Directors have discussed the issue with O’Grady, and members of the 15-man Tournament Committee have been consulted. As a result, the European Tour has drafted a reply to the R&A and is expected to support the R&A.
If the R&A and USGA decide to ban the anchored stroke, the European Tour would abide by the new rule, regardless of the PGA Tour’s stance.
The European Tour’s stance will be greeted with relief by the R&A and USGA. The governing bodies’ authority would have been severely undermined if the world’s top two tours had come out in support of the anchoring stroke.
Now, however, the stage has been set for a scenario in which PGA Tour players might have to ditch their long or belly putters to play in European Tour events.
Golfweek’s Alistair Tait contributed to this report.