'Intent' the anchoring get-out-of-jail-free card

By Brandel ChambleeJuly 5, 2017, 12:30 pm

When describing the proper way to avoid being in violation of the anchoring ban (Rule 14-1b), USGA executive director Mike Davis said, “All you have to do is this [hold the club away from your body] where you control the whole club with your hands. So, long and belly putters are still legal – so long as you don’t anchor them.”

Anchoring, as we all know (and as the USGA knows, with the exception of one word) is when the club, or the gripping hand, or a part of the forearm is held against the body, relieving the player from making a free swing by restricting the movement of the club as if it were physically attached to the player’s body and thereby providing extra support and stability for the stroke.

Anchoring is NOT deemed to have happened when and if a player holds the club, or the gripping hand, or a part of the forearm against the body, relieving the player from making a free swing by restricting the movement of the club as if it were physically attached to the player’s body and thereby providing extra support and stability for the stroke … if the player, regardless of having done all of the above, merely states that it was not their “intent” to have done so. That it was not their “intent” to have anchored.

Intent is the get-out-of-jail-free card for both the player and those who are meant to police the player.

It appears as if the USGA and the R&A, anticipating a clog of calls about the club or the gripping hand or part of the forearm accidentally or otherwise brushing against or settling upon one’s shirt, added the stipulation that there must be intent for the rule to have been violated. They thereby exempted themselves from all adjudicating, in effect saying that while we wrote the rule, we will not interpret the rule.

It appears that the governing bodies in an attempt to soften the blow of taking the long putters away from the world of bad-back and flinch-afflicted golfers, at the very least provided a loophole and at the very worst abdicated the throne of governance.

The rule should be rewritten to state that there must be a clear separation between the club, the gripping hand and all parts of the forearm, from the body. That in the case of any part of the club, the gripping hand or the forearm brushing against one’s shirt in the course of the stroke, it will be reviewed by the committee, for the randomness of its nature and for the potential benefit of the contact.

The loophole being closed and the message being sent, while accidents may happen from time to time, there will be little leeway.

I’ll assume none of that will happen, and that the rule will stand as written, which does provide a loophole for those – and there is no way to gild this lily – that have the lack of character to take advantage of it.

A few years ago I was practicing in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the TPC and was talking to a couple of past-their-prime touring pros, Gibby Gilbert and Butch Baird. The conversation came around to Arnold Palmer and his legacy, which is a hard thing to quantify – kind of like the spirit of the game or sportsmanship, they are far easier understood in example than they are articulated.

Gibby said that once he and the King were playing in a tournament and Arnold pointed to an imperfection on the green and wanted to know if Gibby thought it was a ball mark, meaning something that could be repaired, or just an imperfection, meaning something that couldn’t be repaired. Gibby said, “I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt." Arnold looked at him as if he had called his honor into question, and then sternly said, “I don’t want the damned benefit of the doubt, I want to know what you think."

Point being, Palmer wasn’t going to settle for anything that wasn’t above reproach. He’d much rather have putted over a hole in the green than have a hole in his reputation. That story exemplifies the spirit of the game and is part of Palmer's legacy.

Sports is about entertainment, but at its best it also communicates values. Palmer, like many others in the game, never lost sight of that fact. Stories like this are a big part of golf, and they are what is meant when one says of someone that they embody the spirit of the game. Which is why I cannot believe what I am seeing on PGA Tour Champions, with regard to the putting strokes of Bernhard Langer and Scott McCarron.

When the anchored-putting ban went into effect in January 2016, putting techniques and lives changed. Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Carl Pettersson and Tim Clark, much heralded and documented anchored putters on the PGA Tour, all saw their putting statistics fall off significantly, either in 2015 in anticipation of the ban, or in 2016, where they ranked 129th, 183rd, 177th, 135th and 186th, respectively, when the ban went into effect. Their world ranks dropped. The frequency of them contending in tournaments and major tournaments all but stopped.

Meanwhile on the PGA Tour Champions, Langer did not alter his long putter anchored (looking) putting technique, except to say he was moving the butt end away from his body after making practice strokes with it touching his body. While sometimes the move away from the body was noticeable, it was mostly negligible, and mostly appeared to be touching, at the very least his shirt and often, it was suggested, his body. McCarron, similarly, went about his business. While others on the PGA Tour Champions who had anchored, more noticeably changed their styles, McCarron's and Langer's strokes and statistics appeared unaffected.

Unlike Scott, Bradley, Simpson, Pettersson and Clark, whose strokes and statistics changed for the worse, Langer's and MacCarron’s have improved post ban. In 2015 Langer averaged 1.716 strokes per green in regulation (this is the dominant putting stat on the PGA Tour Champions). In 2016 he averaged 1.715 and won four times and in 2017 he is averaging 1.696, is ranked third in putting, has won three times and is first on the money list.

McCarron, who only turned 50 mid-2015, averaged 1.771 strokes per green in regulation in 2016. He is currently ranked fifth in putting, averaging 1.723 strokes per green in regulation and is fourth on the money list. (Click here to listen to McCarron discuss his putting style)

Is it just coincidence that they alone appeared to have, without difficulty, transitioned to non-anchored techniques and that they are also the only two who have not obviously changed their techniques? Perhaps. And if one is to use their unique success as evidence that they are still anchoring, it would be circumstantial at best, if it wasn’t for the video showing Langer’s hand clearly touching his body during the U.S. Senior Open (video above). When questioned later, Langer said that those who would question him clearly do not know what they are talking about and that he had no intent to anchor. (Click here to listen to Langer discuss his putting style)

Both Langer and McCarron not only maintain that they have no intent to anchor, they maintain that they are not anchoring. Both of those claims may very well be true, but anyone who has watched either of them putt and then zoomed into the point where, as the USGA's Davis suggested, there is meant to be some separation between the top grip hand and the body, knows that in most instances that space is hard, if impossible to find.

I have great respect for Langer and McCarron and have enjoyed watching them play over the years, both as a fellow competitor and as a commentator. But for the life of me, I cannot understand why they would risk even the hint of suspicion when it comes to the nature of how they play this game.

Like Palmer, they should consider how what they are doing on the golf course is viewed by others and strive to be above reproach.

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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.