'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.

Getty Images

CareerBuilder purse payouts: Rahm wins $1.062 million

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 12:50 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of sudden death to win the CareerBuilder Challenger. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out in La Quinta, Calif.:

1 Jon Rahm -22 $1,062,000
2 Andrew Landry -22 $637,200
T3 Adam Hadwin -20 $306,800
T3 John Huh -20 $306,800
T3 Martin Piller -20 $306,800
T6 Kevin Chappell -19 $205,025
T6 Scott Piercy -19 $205,025
T8 Brandon Harkins -18 $171,100
T8 Jason Kokrak -18 $171,100
T8 Sam Saunders -18 $171,100
T11 Harris English -17 $135,700
T11 Seamus Power -17 $135,700
T11 Jhonattan Vegas -17 $135,700
T14 Bud Cauley -16 $106,200
T14 Austin Cook -16 $106,200
T14 Grayson Murray -16 $106,200
T17 Andrew Putnam -15 $88,500
T17 Peter Uihlein -15 $88,500
T17 Aaron Wise -15 $88,500
T20 Ricky Barnes -14 $57,754
T20 Stewart Cink -14 $57,754
T20 Brian Harman -14 $57,754
T20 Beau Hossler -14 $57,754
T20 Charles Howell III -14 $57,754
T20 Zach Johnson -14 $57,754
T20 Ryan Palmer -14 $57,754
T20 Brendan Steele -14 $57,754
T20 Nick Taylor -14 $57,754
T29 Lucas Glover -13 $36,706
T29 Russell Knox -13 $36,706
T29 Nate Lashley -13 $36,706
T29 Tom Lovelady -13 $36,706
T29 Kevin Streelman -13 $36,706
T29 Hudson Swafford -13 $36,706
T29 Richy Werenski -13 $36,706
T36 Jason Dufner -12 $27,189
T36 Derek Fathauer -12 $27,189
T36 James Hahn -12 $27,189
T36 Chez Reavie -12 $27,189
T36 Webb Simpson -12 $27,189
T36 Tyrone Van Aswegen -12 $27,189
T42 Bronson Burgoon -11 $18,983
T42 Ben Crane -11 $18,983
T42 Brian Gay -11 $18,983
T42 Chesson Hadley -11 $18,983
T42 Patton Kizzire -11 $18,983
T42 Hunter Mahan -11 $18,983
T42 Kevin Na -11 $18,983
T42 Rob Oppenheim -11 $18,983
T50 Alex Cejka -10 $14,025
T50 Corey Conners -10 $14,025
T50 Michael Kim -10 $14,025
T50 Kevin Kisner -10 $14,025
T50 Sean O'Hair -10 $14,025
T50 Sam Ryder -10 $14,025
T50 Nick Watney -10 $14,025
T57 Robert Garrigus -9 $13,039
T57 Tom Hoge -9 $13,039
T57 David Lingmerth -9 $13,039
T57 Ben Martin -9 $13,039
T57 Trey Mullinax -9 $13,039
T57 Brett Stegmaier -9 $13,039
T63 Scott Brown -8 $12,449
T63 Wesley Bryan -8 $12,449
T63 Brice Garnett -8 $12,449
T63 Sung Kang -8 $12,449
T67 Talor Gooch -7 $12,095
T67 Tom Whitney -7 $12,095
T69 Matt Every -6 $11,623
T69 Billy Hurley III -6 $11,623
T69 Smylie Kaufman -6 $11,623
T69 Keith Mitchell -6 $11,623
T69 Rory Sabbatini -6 $11,623
T69 Chris Stroud -6 $11,623
75 John Peterson -5 $11,210
76 Abraham Ancer -4 $11,092
77 Ben Silverman 4 $10,974
Getty Images

After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

Getty Images

Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

Getty Images

Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.