McDowell fears putter power struggle will impact on game

Graeme McDowell in action at last week's Accenture Matchplay in Marana, Arizona. 'You are going to all of a sudden find out who runs world golf. Is it the PGA Tour? Is it the USGA and the RA?,' asks the Northern Irishman. photograph: getty images

Graeme McDowell in action at last week's Accenture Matchplay in Marana, Arizona. 'You are going to all of a sudden find out who runs world golf. Is it the PGA Tour? Is it the USGA and the RA?,' asks the Northern Irishman. photograph: getty images

Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 00:00

Graeme McDowell believes the growing tension between the PGA Tour and golf’s governing bodies over the proposed anchoring ban could decide who really runs the game of golf.

While the Ulsterman is against anchoring the putter to the body and feels sorry for close friend Keegan Bradley, who has been called a cheat by fans for using the method, he reckons the potential power struggle between the PGA Tour and golf’s governing bodies could make a major impact on the future of the game.

Speaking ahead of the Honda Classic, McDowell said: “I do feel for Keegan. It’s been a long, drawn out affair and it’s horrible. Getting called a cheat at Tiger’s event last year and all that stuff, it’s bang out of line.

“These guys are well within the rules right now and it’s just opened up a can of worms with the RA and the USGA. I’d like to see them come to an agreement and set it aside for the time being until we are going to implement the rule.”

Commissioner Tim Finchem publicly announced last week the PGA Tour is against the implementation of the proposed ban on anchoring in 2016, raising the possibility they could ignore the USGA and the RA and allow the method under their own rules.

That could lead to players being allowed to anchor in regular US Tour events but being forced to use a short putter for the British Open and the US Open, which are run by the RA and the USGA.

McDowell believes bifurcation could be possible by allowing clubs golfers to use the anchored putter while banning it at the top amateur level and in the professional game.

But he shudders to think what might happen if the the governing bodies go ahead and impose the rule change and the PGA Tour goes its own way.

“What’s going to happen at WGCs if the European Tour go with it, as it appears, and the PGA Tour goes against it?” McDowell wondered. “You are going to all of a sudden find out who runs world golf. Is it the PGA Tour? Is it the USGA and the RA? Who calls the shots?

“What’s Keegan Bradley going to do at the Open and the US Open? What’s Adam Scott going to do then? Are they going to write themselves off for two weeks a year or switch to the short putter for two weeks a year? It’s an interesting one and I don’t know what the answer is. I just hope they can come up with an answer.”

Woods’ opinion

Tiger Woods is against anchoring and bifurcation and yesterday echoed Rory McIlroy’s call for unity in the game following Finchem’s confirmation that the PGA Tour is against the rule change.

“Hopefully we don’t have to bifurcate or adapt a local rule like we do sometimes out here on tour with the stones and bunkers and things of that nature,” Woods said. “Hopefully we won’t have to do that with our putter. I understand his (Finchem’s) position but I still feel that all 14 clubs should be swung. That hasn’t changed at all whatever”.

Three of the last five major tournaments have been won by players using long, or belly, putters – Bradley at the PGA Championship, Ernie Els at the British Open and Webb Simpson at the US Open.

Honda Classic The lowdown

Course: PGA National; Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Par: 70. Yards: 7,241. Field: 144

Format: 72-hole stroke play.

Defending champion: Rory McIlroy

Purse: €4,600,000 (€780,000 for winner)

Last year: A week after his runner-up finish at the WGC-Accenture Matchplay, McIlroy’s final round, one-under 69 to finish 12-under 268 proved enough for a two-stroke win over Tiger Woods and Tom Gillis. McIlroy overtook Luke Donald to become world number one for the first time. In pursuit of McIlroy, Woods closed with an eight-under 62, the lowest final round of his PGA Tour career.

Facts: McIlroy was the fifth consecutive overseas winner last year and the youngest in the tournament’s history at 22 years, 10 months. McIlroy is bidding to join Jack Nicklaus (1977-78) as the second player to successfully defend the title. The field features five of the top eight in the world; McIlroy (1), Woods (2), Louis Oosthuizen (5), Justin Rose (6) and Lee Westwood ( 8); in total, 19 of the top 50 in the world are playing.

Feature holes: The Bear Trap – 15th (179 yards), 16th (434 yards) and 17th (190 yards) – was the toughest three-hole stretch on the PGA Tour in 2011 with a scoring average of +1.178. Last year it played much easier, +0.391. Rory McIlroy was one of eight players to go bogey free through the Bear Trap in 2012, carding three birdies and nine pars.

Selected tee times (Irish time)

12.25 – Woods, D Johnson, Kaymer

17.25 – McIlroy, Els, Wilson

1735 – Bradley, Fowler, Westwood

17.35 – Stallings, Jacobson, McDowell.

Weather – Today: Partly cloudy. Low 15c, high 24c. Winds: W/NW 8-15mph. Tomorrow: Partly cloudy. Low 11c, high 22c. Winds W/NW 8-15mph . Saturday: Mostly cloudy, cool, 30 percent chance of showers. Low 9c, high 18c. Winds NW 10-20mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy, cool, 30 percent chance of showers. Low 7c, high 17c. Winds NW 10-20mph.

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