Wrapping up year of big-time changes in golf

By Doug FergusonDecember 11, 2012, 9:53 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Let's see if we get this straight.

In a decision just about everyone saw coming, golf's ruling bodies declared their intentions to outlaw putting strokes that are anchored to the body, which Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els used in winning three of the last five major championships.

It would not become a new rule for three years.

A few days earlier, the R&A dropped the biggest post-Thanksgiving surprise since that Florida Highway Patrol report on a single-car accident involving Tiger Woods. It proposed alterations to half the holes on the Old Course at St. Andrews, including the front part of the green near the famous Road Hole bunker.

Work began in three days.

No matter your opinion on either subject, there is little disputing that 2012 was filled with significant changes. Perhaps it was only fitting that the PGA of America decided not to let the year end without picking a new Ryder Cup captain. It announced on Tuesday that there would be an announcement Thursday on NBC's ''Today'' show.

So what to expect for 2013?

The PGA Tour will end one season in September and start a new season in October.

The Web.com Tour will get more attention than ever with four tournaments in the fall that, in effect, replace Q-School.

The six rounds of Q-School that Erik Compton not-so-affectionately referred to as ''hell week'' will be missing this familiar phrase: ''If he makes this putt, he's on the PGA Tour.'' That's because the new version of Q-School only awards a ticket to the minor leagues.

Instead of finishing the calendar year outside the Magic Kingdom, players will be going to Mexico. Adios, Disney.

Two of the biggest changes – the wraparound season and Q-School – were only a matter of time.

The demise of Q-School was brought on by the creation in 2007 of the FedEx Cup, and while players might not take time to understand the points, they understand four playoff events worth a total of $67 million in prize money and bonuses. Trouble is, that reduced the tournaments after the FedEx Cup to something called the ''Fall Series,'' with smaller purses, watered-down fields and minimal world ranking points.

The only way to keep those sponsors happy was to treat them like regular PGA Tour events. The only way to treat them like regular events was to give them FedEx Cup points. And they couldn't give FedEx Cup points without making them part of the regular schedule, thus the wraparound season.

Start in October, end in September. Win/lose the Presidents Cup/Ryder Cup. Repeat process.

And with the new season starting so soon, there was no time to award Tour cards at Q-School. That's a big reason the Tour went to the four-tournament series known as ''The Finals,'' to be played roughly the same time as the FedEx Cup playoffs.

The greater change will be anchored strokes, and the Tour would do well to take a page from the Old Course and get started immediately.

The rule still has go to through a 90-day comment period before the U.S. Golf Association and R&A approved it, and because the Rules of Golf only change every four years, it would not be effective until the next book comes out in 2016.

There was talk that the Tour could create its own rule and allow the putting stroke. What's more likely to happen is for the PGA Tour to create its own rule that bans the anchored stroke well before 2016 – like the start of the 2014 season, which will be in October of 2013.

It puts players like Bradley in a sticky spot. While it's perfectly legal to anchor the club now, everyone knows the end of the belly putter is near. It was difficult not to look at Bradley and Simpson differently after the proposed ban was announced, where before no one would have noticed and even few would have cared. TV can't ignore it, either, and is that really what the Tour wants to hear from the booth for the next three years?

Bradley says a fan called him a cheater during the third round of the World Challenge at Sherwood, and the USGA rushed out a statement that condemned the comment as ''deplorable.'' It's surprising the USGA has waited this long to take on the fan who screams, ''Get in the hole'' when players tee off on a par 5 by reminding us there is no evidence of anyone reaching the green with a 575-yard tee shot.

Can someone like Bradley expect more of the same? Possibly. Just don't get the idea such comments will cause an unfair advantage.Bradley thrives on this stuff.

He was asked after the round if the debate could actually help him because he was running out of chips to put on his shoulder.

''Absolutely,'' he said. ''You hear guys like Michael Jordan talk about how he liked to play on the road. The guy called me a cheater on the last hole – that gets me motivated. I'm never running out of stuff to motivate me because I always feel like I need to get better. I never go into a tournament thinking I'm playing so good that I'm going to win. Every single tournament I've won, I had a borderline meltdown on Wednesday. That's what keeps me going. It's just how I am.''

Don't get the idea Bradley lacks confidence. He thinks he can win every week. It just doesn't hurt to find motivation wherever he can, even from the gallery.

''I think it's one of my best qualities,'' he said.

As for St. Andrews? No need to panic just yet. The British Open doesn't return there for three more years.

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:







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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."