Not sure if some of you caught PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem’s planned interview midway through Sunday’s final round in the World Matchplay, but if you didn’t, you can read his comments HERE. I’ll not waste much time going over and dissecting everything he said, other than reiterating the key argument he made stating the Tour’s opposition to the USGA’s anchoring ban proposal.
No competitive advantage. “I think the essential thread that went through the thinking of the players was that in the absence of data or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring, and given the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, that there is no overriding reason to go down that road.” ~ Tim Finchem
That’s a true statement, at least going by the USGA’s own admission back in November, saying that there was no “empirical data” suggesting a competitive advantage, but rather a sudden increase in players using the anchoring technique. When prodded by Dan Hicks on the possibility of the PGA Tour essentially ignoring the rule change scheduled to take effect in 2016 by implementing an in-house local rule that would allow the anchoring technique to be utilized by players playing in Tour-sanctioned events, Finchem refused to offer a definitive answer, but left the possibility open by suggesting that should it come to that point, it would essentially be left up to the Players Advisory Board to vote on. If I’m the USGA, his reply was definitive enough.
I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon reading a number of opinions from some of the game’s loudest talking heads, and I tell ya – it really is true about golf being a microcosm of life. It seems the divisive culture that our country is undergoing both socially and politically is starting to seep into the culture of this game that I dearly love. Obviously golf isn’t life or death and regardless of the needless sensationalism that this anchoring issue is getting at the moment, it’s not going to impact the fact that I wake up every morning of my life hoping to play golf with people I enjoy being around. The game has always been a great friend to me, for many reasons, some more significant than others. And truth be told, I really don’t care what the PGA Tour does or what the USGA decides to do. As long as I’m able to play competitively, I’ll always abide by whatever rules the governing authority sets forth. Sure, I have my opinion on this subject, just like everyone else. But I really don’t think that a longstanding technique is the only thing at stake now.
Whether or not I agree with a rule doesn’t matter. Just like whether or not I agree with the posted speed limit in a particular stretch of open road doesn’t matter. We’ve always lived in a structured environment with rules and laws that govern how we should carry ourselves, whether it’s driving a car or determining if a tee shot is in or out of bounds. There’s obviously an ethical difference there, as I’ve knowingly broken the speed limit on numerous occasions, but to my knowledge – I’ve never intentionally broken a rule in golf in a competitive environment. But the bottom line in either instance is no different; if a cop pulls you over for speeding – you get fined, and if you break a rule in golf – you get penalized. And of course, there’s always an opportunity to appeal. If enough people think that a law is outdated and needless, there’s a process for that. If enough people can present valid arguments for the implementation of new laws, then by virtue of living in a democracy – it gets voted up or down in legislation. Either way, the will of the people should always have the final say.
But enough of that. You didn’t come here to read a fledgling golf blogger’s take on American Civics.
Where golf and life aren’t one in the same is that there is no such thing as a democracy as it relates to the rules of golf. Which is why I really don’t understand why the USGA would open that can of worms with a window of discussion pertaining to the anchoring issue that every other person feels differently about. We’ve been trusting them to be caretakers of the game for going on 119 years, and the structure they’ve implemented over the years since appears to have been honored and respected without issue. I honestly don’t know why that should change now, other than maybe they’ve been paying attention to our elected government officials making complete asses of themselves with absolutely no regard to the people who they allegedly represent, and are trying to make up for the enormous void on a political level by sacrificing their own ambitions and authority on a sporting level. But make no mistake – the game is better served being under the rule of a Monarchy, otherwise the structure dissolves under the latitude granted by diplomacy. I hate to use this analogy, since I hated hearing it as a kid growing up. But sometimes the phrase “because I said so” is more justifiable than a reasonable explanation. The reason I hated hearing my mother or father telling me this is because they were essentially telling me that they knew more about something than I did, and I was simply going to have to trust their judgement and accept their demands.
But the unprecedented diplomatic approach that the USGA embraced a few months back with opening a period of discussion for the various institutions – it hasn’t been good for the game. Despite the well-intended gesture, it’s created an environment where they now find themselves competing with subordinate institutions on both the authority and credibility front, which undermines the very structures in place that govern the game itself. I can list a dozen reasons why I personally feel anchoring should be permitted, but I can’t list one good reason why any institution other than the governing body of the game itself should feel empowered enough to grant that permission.
Later in that interview on Sunday, Tim Finchem said, “We’re not interested in getting in the rule-making business.” Judging by the interview Sunday that was aired to millions of viewers, that’s not entirely true. But of course – he and his organization was asked for input by the USGA, and he obliged. It just so happens that he chose to do it publicly, and not only that, stopped short of implying that a dicey ultimatum potentially exists. The USGA has brought this upon themselves, by not dealing with this issue 40 years ago, and then adding to the dilemma by opening it up for debate 40 years later. As my old platoon sergeant often said many moons ago, “I’m not in charge of Foreign Policy, France… I just carry it out.” Not quite as deliberate as “because I said so,” but the point was made nevertheless. It’s no longer an issue about a rule, but an issue about the rule of authority itself.
No matter how you break this down and look at all of the differing viewpoints, the cliff we’re heading toward now is quickly approaching the point of no return. I’d offer the corny analogy that the only thing that could potentially save us now would be an anchor… but well, that’s part of the reason we’re heading over a cliff to begin with.