Members of the Champions Tour Player Advisory Council meeting last week before the Allianz Championship to discuss the possible ban, which could be announced at the end of this month.
“They said that’s why I’m there,” said Michael Allen, the only member of the 13-player Champions Tour PAC that uses a long putter, although statistics show that nearly one in five players on the circuit use anchored putters.
According to officials at the meeting, which lasted about an hour, 18 percent of Champions Tour players use a belly or long putter.
It’s interesting to note that two of those are Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples, among the tour’s biggest starts, and in fact two of the three players featured on the cover of the 2013 Champions Tour media guide.
“I would certainly try (to putt) another way,” Langer said of what he might do if the USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews ban anchored putters, as they have indicated they will do.
“It depends on what happens and we’re still in the question phase, but if I don’t enjoy the game anymore then I would stop playing.”
The day after Davis’ meeting with PGA Tour players at Torrey Pines, Commissioner Tim Finchem left open the possibility that his tour might be open to a bifurcation of the Rules of Golf, but said it was unlikely in this case.
Some members of the Champions Tour seem open to the idea.
“I would hate to break away from what the PGA Tour does, but yeah. I probably would (be in favor of bifurcation on the senior circuit),” said Peter Jacobsen, a member of the Champions Tour PAC.
“To keep people like Langer, a Hall of Fame superstar and one of the best people I’ve ever met, to keep him playing. Michael Allen, Fred Couples, go down the list. I want these guys playing. We probably could (bifurcate).”
The Champions Tour already exercises a level of bifurcation with the PGA Tour, especially by allowing players to use golf carts during rounds.
Others are against the Champions Tour going its own way.
“I don’t think we would (bifurcate),” Brad Faxon said. "That would be a mistake for us to do something different. It’s a hot topic, especially out here. But the hardest thing to do is to get a rational, non-biased opinion on what is best for the game and what is best for the tour. …
“Who really has the best interest of the game? That’s where we have to leave governing away from us.”
Champions Tour officials planned to survey its members in order to get a consensus opinion on the situation.
–By announcing the addition of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship and U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, which will begin in 2015, the United States Golf Association might have been trying to soften the pushback from eliminating the men’s and women’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championships after 2014.
The USGA made both announcements simultaneously.
“It wasn’t without a lot of thought,” said Tom O’Toole, chairman of the USGA’s championship committee, on the Golf Channel. "We’re not in the business of canceling championships, so this is a somber note.
“But the mission of those Public Links Championships, the men’s (inaugurated) in 1922 and the women’s in 1977, no longer served that original purpose or mission. So it was the decision of the committee that we’d go in a different direction at this time and retire those championships, and really for the next two years celebrate them with great flair and flavor because they’ve been a great fiber of what the USGA has been about … .”
The men’s Publinx was the USGA’s fourth-oldest championship, dating to 1922.
Among the winners of those tournaments are Tim Clark (1997), Trevor Immelman (1998), Michelle Wie (2003), Brandt Snedeker (2003) and Ryan Moore (2002 and 2004).
Reaction from pros who played in those events was swift, in this day of social media, as several of them took to Twitter. Here is a sampling of what they said:
Arron Oberholser: “Ok, so lemme get this straight, you’re adding 4-ball (cool) but getting rid of the championship for which your organization stands.” And later, sarcastically, “USGA to “retire” US AM comp in favor of husband/wife “nine & dine”. Winner receives 2 for 1 Waffle House passes Masters week. LOL.”
Brendan Steele, who already is not happy with the USGA because he uses a belly putter: “USGA makes another bad decision by getting rid of the US Pub Links. Keep it going guys. See what else you can ruin.”
Keegan Bradley, another guy with the belly putter: “Really sorry to hear that the public links will be cancelled in 2014. It’s a great tournament for game. Very surprised. Replaced by 4ball?”
The Four-Ball Championships will be two-person team competitions played annually between mid-March and late May. Each male competitor must have a USGA handicap index of 5.4 or lower, while women need indexes of 14.4 of lower.
There is no age requirement for eligibility, and the partners need not be from the same club, state or country.
The fields for the men’s and women’s events will consist of 128 and 64 teams, respectively, with 32 teams advancing to match play after 36 holes of stroke play.
“To bring that popular event to a national championship context seemed like a perfect fit,” O’Toole said.
As for the Publinx, this is the first time the USGA has eliminated an event. The Masters thought so much of the Men’s Pulbinx that the winner received an invitation to the first major of the year.