From there the pros were invited to put a check beside one of the following two sentences:
• I would favor a ban on anchoring a golf club.
• I would not favor a ban on anchoring a golf club.
By the Sunday after Thanksgiving the results had been tallied: 4,200 pros responded (about 16%) and roughly two thirds of them opposed the ban. Would George Gallup have signed off on the wording? Probably not, not with that leading-the-witness preamble. Is the sample big enough? Hard to say. Still, Bishop took it as a major indicator of where his men and women stood. It was a tipping point.
He has been off and running ever since. He knows that Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods (32 majors between them) are in favor of the ban. But Bishop has Tim Clark and Adam Scott! (Almost one.) Bishop polled Lee Trevino on the subject when he happened to be seated next to him on a flight from Dallas to Orlando last week. (Trevino to Far Hills: Let the belly be!) This week, the PGA expects to release another poll of its pros, about whether they support bifurcation, two sets of rules, in the case. If Bishop sees you at your neighborhood Starbucks, he'll poll you. The man's poll-crazy.
Just the other day he signed up Amy Wilson and Stacy Hoffman, and their hubbies (Mark and Charley) don't even anchor. How'd he do it? He looked into their future. Did you know that nearly half the players on the Champions tour anchor? Do you realize your husbands are about 15 years away from the big five-0? Do you think the future of the Champions tour would be jeopardized if some of its great players couldn't play without anchoring?
You could argue that's crazy talk, that Bernhard Langer would figure out a way to putt no matter what you made him use, that Freddie's shaky even when he bellies, and that the senior circuit could survive if Mark Wiebe, with his colorful vocab and his split-gripped putter, never made another C-tour start. Still: Ted's been on a roll for a while, and his excellent adventure continued last week at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. He was everywhere, except at the annual outdoor Demo Day, where pros and other industry insiders get to sample the year's new toys. It's a colorful scene. "The USGA is worried about how anchored putting looks," Davis Love III said last week, "and everywhere you turn there's a white club with racing stripes on it. Is that look protecting tradition?" This from the man who on Feb. 2 is being honored with the USGA's highest prize, the Bob Jones Award.
Bishop missed Demo Day last week because he was flying back from a one-day trip to San Diego for the Tour players' meeting there. Now that had to be interesting. Davis was there to talk to the players about the proposed ban. Bishop, who as PGA president has a spot on the PGA Tour policy board, attended the meeting with the PGA of America's new CEO, Pete Bevacqua, who in an earlier life spent 11 years at the USGA.
Bishop and Bevacqua were having dinner at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines when Davis and Glen Nager, the USGA president, asked if they could join them. The four talked for the better part of an hour about their many shared interests: speeding up play, increasing junior participation, making golf more accessible to disabled players, water usage, the many people they know in common. Henry Kissinger likes to say that history is dictated by personality, and it's possible this amicable hour of golf chat will prove to be significant. But not likely. Two days later, when referring to a Golf World story about Davis and Nager that ran under the headline Trail Blazers, Bishop was almost smirking. He doesn't think they are trailblazers. Of course, Nager and Davis don't see themselves as trailblazers, either. They are trying to defend challenge as an essential golfing value. And for Bishop, that's where the conflict arises.
There's something funny about PGA presidents. Very few of them have had a high profile in the game beyond their organization. USGA presidents serve for two one-year terms, yet a good number of them have become names you might recognize: Sandy Tatum, Trey Holland, Buzz Taylor, Walter Driver, Fred Ridley, Judy Bell among them. Arnold Palmer (who is strongly in favor of the anchoring ban) said last week he could name only one PGA president who really had a major impact on national golf: Leo Fraser of the Atlantic City Country Club, the PGA president in 1969--70 who helped pave the way for the Tour pros who broke away from the PGA of America and formed the PGA Tour in late '68. Bishop could be the next Fraser.