SAN DIEGO — And Brendan Steele thought last year’s mandatory PGA Tour players’ meeting was contentious.
The divisive issue when golfers gathered here in 2012 was a proposal that top performers at qualifying school proceed to the Web.com circuit instead of the PGA Tour.
Steele has braced himself for an even more rancorous debate today over anchored putters when the players convene before the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
The session is taking place on Day 56 of a 90-day period in which the U.S. Golf Association and Britain’s Royal & Ancient, the two governing bodies of golf, are entertaining feedback on their proposed ban of the anchored putting stroke used by three of the past five major winners, including Keegan Bradley, who is also in this week’s field.
“It’s been a very hot topic and very frustrating from my point of view," said Steele, who uses an anchored stroke and who last week was voted onto this year’s 16-member Player Advisory Council.
Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director, will address the players as a group for the first time since the proposed ban was announced Nov. 28. He has said he will explain the ruling and the rationale behind the decision and answer questions.
Long putters have been part of the game for decades, but before 2001, only three players had won a PGA Tour event while using one. They became a hot issue last year when they were used by Ernie Els, 43, in his victory at the British Open in July and by Guan Tianlang, 14, in his victory at the Asia-Pacific Championship in November.
The use of the club by champions of such divergent ages signaled to the powers that be in golf that the long putter had transitioned from curiosity to keepsake.
“I definitely appreciate that Mike Davis is willing to step up before us and somewhat face the music and give us some sort of an explanation of why they’re acting now when this stroke has been around for a long time," Steele said. “If he steps up and tells us the reason for the ban now is that so many guys are using it, they’re using it too young and too many guys are winning majors with it, I know I’d be more accepting of it because at least that would seem like a more honest explanation than what we’ve been hearing, which is that it’s to protect the integrity of the game."
The way Steele sees it, the discussion on anchored strokes could go in any number of directions. Will the proposed ban, which is scheduled to take effect in 2016, be put into effect earlier so players who use the stroke will not feel stigmatized?
Is there a possibility it will be modified to include only players born after a certain year, say, 2000, which would eventually eliminate the anchored stroke through attrition? Would the PGA Tour consider not adopting the rule change at all?
“I just don’t have enough answers to know what’s going to happen," said Steele, 29, who earned his only tour win in 2011. “I’m willing to give my approval when it’s necessary if Mike Davis comes in and gives a sound presentation and we can actually have a discussion. If he comes in and says, ‘Guys, I don’t know what to tell you, here’s what we’re going to do and deal with it,’ it could get really uncomfortable."