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Tee to Green: Anchor ban just latest historic decision

5:06 PM, Nov 29, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Wednesday's anchoring ban proposal by the USGA and R&A was viewed by many in the game of golf as a landmark announcement. While a final decision won't be made until spring 2013, the proposal has already reverberated throughout the community, with golfers and manufacturers of all sorts prepping for an official rules change in 2016.

While this latest decision is sure to shape the game in the coming years, it is just that: the latest in a string of rulings and verdicts which have molded the ancient sport into its current form.

Below are three relatively recent examples of other landmark golf decisions. But first thing's first: my opinion on the proposed anchoring ban ... I'm for it.

Yes, I feel for the Keegan Bradley's and the Webb Simpson's of the sport; not to mention all of the college players and aspiring amateurs who have built their professional dreams with anchored mortar. They are all unquestioned victims of the ban, but let's be honest, there are almost always victims when a decision of this magnitude is made; it is the nature of an imperfect world.

And another thing ... there is something off about anchoring; it just doesn't look right. Long putters have an air of ridiculousness and belly putters aren't far behind. I mean, come on, the anchored putter was invented by an aging Army veteran struggling to make putts on the Senior Tour; now it is being picked up by elite-level athletes.

As Tiger Woods said this week before his World Challenge:

"I just believe that the art of putting is swinging the club and controlling nerves and having it as a fixed point, as I was saying all year, is something that's not in the traditions of the game. We swing all other 13 clubs. I think the putter should be the same. It should be a swinging motion throughout the entire bag."

Swing the club people.

Now that everyone is riled up, let's take a look at some other significant decisions.

PING vs. USGA

Some 20 years ago (in 1990, the be exact) ... Yea, 1990 was over 20 years ago, we're all getting old ... So, some 20 years ago, the USGA and Karsten Manufacturing, producers of the PING brand, went to court over the company's Eye2 irons.

According to the USGA, the Eye2's square or U-grooves imparted spin on the ball which created an unfair advantage, especially around the green. Eventually, PING agreed to change the groove construction moving forward, but, per the settlement, the USGA allowed the company's older clubs to be "grandfathered in" and remain in play.

The case was just another example of the complications that arise when burgeoning technology meets playing guidelines; there is rarely a simple answer, which was proven in 2010 (exactly 20 years later), when the Eye2s made an unexpected comeback.

On Jan. 1, 2010 the USGA ruled to reduce the depth, width and sharpness of grooves on clubs with lofts equal or greater than 25 degrees. Essentially, golf's governing body was making it tougher for players to create backspin and hold the green out of the rough.

The solution for some PGA Tour players, including Phil Mickelson: dust off the old Eye2s, which were still legal thanks to the 1990 grandfather clause.

A minor uproar ensued when Mickelson utilized the club at Torrey Pines almost a month after the rule change. Longtime pro Scott McCarron told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was "appalled Phil has put it in play," and Mickelson responded with the claim that he had been "publicly slandered."

Later in the year, PING and the PGA Tour agreed on a ban of the pre-April 1990 Eye2s for good.

CASEY MARTIN vs. PGA TOUR

In 1998, Casey Martin was surrounded by controversy as he prepared to play in U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Martin, who was born with a birth defect which affects circulation in his right leg, was in the midst of a legal battle with the PGA Tour over the right to use a golf cart.

The tour claimed that a cart would give Martin an unfair playing advantage, and luminaries such as Jack Nicklaus came down on the side of the organization.

Martin, now the head coach of the University of Oregon, initially won his case, but the tour appealed. The lawsuit was brought before the Supreme Court, and in 2001 Martin successfully sued the PGA Tour for the right to use a golf cart during competition.

The ruling was another landmark, but Martin's career proved to be less monumental. He briefly flirted with the lead at the 1998 U.S. Open before finishing in a tie for 23rd. After one full year on the PGA Tour in 2000, he spent some time on the Nationwide Tour, then left the professional circuit in 2006.

This year, Martin - golf cart and all - fittingly returned to the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club after winning a regional qualifier.

DESEGREGATION

Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers in April of 1947. A year prior, Kenny Washington did the same for the NFL's modern-era color barrier when he suited up for the Los Angeles Rams.

The PGA of America followed suit ... in 1961. From 1934 to 1961 the organization's "Caucasian-only clause" denied greats like Ted Rhodes, John Shippen and Bill Spiller the opportunity to become members.

The clause was finally lifted at the PGA Annual Meeting in 1961.

In 2009, the PGA granted posthumous membership to Rhodes, Shippen and Spiller, and honorary membership to boxing legend and golf enthusiast Joe Louis Barrow Sr. -- better known as Joe Louis.

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