Finchem's call for unified rules causes rumpus

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The Independent Online

Tim Finchem, the commissioner of the US PGA Tour, has called for a single, worldwide body to administer the rules of the game. Feathers would have to be ruffled to achieve this, but as one of the most powerful administrators in the game, Finchem's views require noting.

It is not just in Britain that there is a confused structure overseeing the game. The same applies on a global basis. Each major championship is run by a different body, while the professional tours around the world are their own organisations again. But the main cause of conflict at the moment is that there are two governing bodies for the rules of the game, the Royal and Ancient and the US Golf Association.

While both agree on most points, there is a divergence concerning the controversial thin-faced driver. These have been banned by the USGA under coefficient of restitution rules – the so-called "trampoline effect" – but such measures have not been adopted by the R and A, which prefers not to legislate for the tiny majority at the top of the professional game against the interests of average club golfers.

The impasse has been with us for two years and it does not appear that it will be resolved soon. Finchem thinks a new start is required. "We are strongly advocating that United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient work together to create a new, independent global body or entity that would be charged with the responsibility of making the rules of golf as they relate to equipment," he said.

"The current system is inefficient. To have two groups writing the rules instead of one for a global game doesn't seem to make a lot of sense and has resulted in two sets of rules in at least one case, which causes us difficulties in terms of competition on a global basis. But the thing I think has been missing from the equation is an overall philosophy from which the equipment rules emanate so the average golfer can understand why rules are being made. The chances of that happening would be enhanced by having a new entity do that. We could stand a fresh start with a new level of confidence in an independent body that was global."

Finchem, like Ken Schofield at the European Tour, would prefer to stay out of the rules-making procedure but added: "If it became important for all of golf to come together in this in some way, we could do that. This body would require the funding to do the appropriate testing of equipment and I assume that some group of us in golf could muster the requisite funds.

"If the USGA and the R and A determine they wanted to work together on a new structure, we would be available to assist in whatever way was appropriate. We don't feel we have to be directly involved for it to be effective, but we could be."

Finchem is the leading player on the International Federation of PGA Tours, which was created to run the World Golf Championships and, he said, "is also in favour of this general concept". Finchem also announced on the eve of Accenture World Matchplay at La Costa that the prize money at the WGC events will rise to $5.5m (£4m), although the first prizes will remain $1m.

Japan's Toru Taniguchi was the first to collect his increased first round losers cheque of $27,500, although he had to work harder for it than Scott Hoch. The American lost 5 and 4 to Steve Lowery but Taniguchi, who beat Ernie Els in the third-place play-off in Melbourne last year, took Vijay Singh to the 16th before losing 3 and 2.

Singh, the ninth seed, had six birdies and did not drop a shot to revenge his defeat to Taniguchi in the second round last year. Darren Clarke, the champion two years ago, will not be repeating this feat after losing to Matt Gogel 2 and 1. Clarke went ahead briefly when he holed for a birdie from 18 feet at the short third but Gogel, whose maiden US Tour win came at Pebble Beach earlier this month, almost holed his second at the fourth to square the match.

Clarke failed to get up and down from a bunker at the fifth and took three putts from short of the seventh green while his opponent took only two. Gogel went three-up after a birdie from five feet at the eighth to leave the Irishman contemplating an early exit similar to the one he suffered at the hands of Andrew Magee in 1999. Birdies at the 11th and 12th cut the deficit to one but he then bogeyed at the 15th and saw his 15 footer at the 17th to keep the match alive hit the hole and stay out.

Finding news on the course in the early stages was not helped by the eccentric nature of the leaderboards. These were more like starboards, given that the names of Woods, Duval, Mickelson and Garcia were all up on the one by the fourth green, although none were due to tee off for some time, while only one of the matches on the course was being updated. The name of "Parnevick" also mysteriously appeared.

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