Should wins with anchored putters get an asterisk?

By Jason SobelNovember 29, 2012, 8:47 pm

The U.S. Golf Association and R&A have proposed a ban on anchored strokes, effective Jan. 1, 2016. The stroke, most notably made with the putter, will be legal until that time. But should victories with an anchored putter attained between now and then – and even prior – come with an asterisk? writers weigh in.



Asterisks are useful grammatical tools when conveying messages such “*Void where prohibited by law,” or “*Any use of this article without’s express written consent is strictly prohibited.”

It can work for athletic achievements, too. You want to place an asterisk next to Barry Bonds’ home run record or any number of tainted collegiate national championship titles? Go right ahead.

There’s no place for it in golf, though – at least, none that I’ve seen yet. People wanted to put one next to Bob Goalby’s 1968 Masters victory when Roberto De Vicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard, but Goalby won by the rules of the game. They wanted asterisks next to each of Padraig Harrington’s major wins in 2008 because Tiger Woods was injured, but he won 'em, fair and square.

And now we’re talking about placing an asterisk next to guys who win with an anchored putter prior to it being deemed illegal? Maybe some people just don’t know their punctuation. There’s no way we should think of a victory by legal means as anything other than a victory. Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson will wield anchored putters at this week’s World Challenge – and neither should have to apologize for it or feel ashamed about it.

Both of 'em have a pretty good chance of winning this event, too. If they do? Well, they could do a lot worse than telling people afterward: “Kiss my asterisk.”



The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient may not make this proposed rule banning anchored putters official until 2016, but the new rule defines such strokes as improper, a determination that casts a shadow over every stroke made that way, regardless if it’s technically still legal or not. There’s a timelessness to the nature of this ruling.

If the stroke is deemed to be “improper” by golf’s governing body in 2016, it will feel “improper” tomorrow to a player who gets beat by a guy who wins with an anchored putter.

Tiger Woods is among many players who think it’s wrong to anchor a putter. Now, regardless of when the rule kicks in, they’re justified believing that their suspicions have been confirmed. Really, what's legal and what's proper are now two different questions.

There won't actually be an asterisk in the record books, but, fair or not, even the major championship victories of Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els over the last 15 months come with questions that serve as unspoken asterisks: Would they have won without anchoring their putters? Would they have won with 'proper' strokes? Would they have beaten all the players who didn’t anchor if the playing field were level? Now, you can argue the playing field was level, that any player could have anchored a putter in those majors, but if it truly is deemed an “improper stroke,” there was no level field to play upon, just a corrupted one.



Here’s a history lesson: Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam in 1930.  It remains one of the most impressive – if not the most impressive – accomplishments in golf history. He used a concave-faced wedge to win those tournaments. A year later, the USGA decided to ban the club, believing it gave players an unfair advantage.

So how do we refer to that feat now? We don’t say, Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam in 1930, but, oh, well, you know, he did use a club that was later outlawed by the governing bodies and, so, well, I guess that diminishes the accomplishment.

Of course not.

These players are using a type of stroke that, right now, is within the rules of the game. They aren’t cheaters. They don’t deserve an asterisk. And they have until Jan. 1, 2016 – or, hopefully, a bit sooner, so this debate doesn’t drag on for three more years – and then they must conform.

Until then, stop the bellyaching.



Perhaps more than any other sport, golf’s history is tied to equipment: hickory shafts, persimmon woods, balata balls. Despite that fact, the historical lines tend to blur between one era and the next. While we currently stand at a stark dividing point, with time the delineation between B.B. and A.B. (Before Ban and After Ban) will become less pronounced, and players who win during the upcoming interregnum should be viewed as nothing short of deserving.

Flip the situation on its head and assume the governing bodies put a temporary, three-year lift on rules against square grooves, or maximum club lengths, or drivers with spring-like effect. Wouldn’t many players use the newly amended Rules of Golf to their advantage, even if it meant playing with equipment that would knowingly be perceived as illegal years down the road? I believe they would, and likely with little hesitation if they felt their games would benefit.

The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient have drawn a line in the sand – and that line is still years away. Until that point, golfers are charged with playing as well as they can within the confines of the current Rules. Whether or not that includes anchoring their putter may remain a talking point, but with time that point of emphasis will fade, and rightfully so. At the end of the day, as has been the case for decades, golf fans will remember the names on the trophies far more than they will recall the clubs with which those trophies were won.



Word around PGA West, site of this week’s final stage of Q-School, was that the PGA Tour may act unilaterally to ban the act of anchoring, and by definition long putters, before the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

This is not Camp Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., storming the moral high ground to right a wrong, this is about perception. Although it may offend the senses, the truth is if the ban is approved next spring a victory by a long-putter using player before the January 2016 enactment would be tainted and for Tour officials that is just not acceptable.

In many ways accomplishments over the next three seasons, and 12 majors, would be viewed similarly to how history remembers the “juiced ball” era in baseball.

There are no official asterisks on Barry Bonds’ prolific accomplishments, but to the average fan there is a metaphorical cloud that will never be lifted.

Comparing the use of belly putters to PEDs is extreme, but the questions are no less valid. It may not be fair, but “anchored victories” before the 2016 transition will come complete with an asterisk, and that just won’t do.

Getty Images

Teenager Im wins 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 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 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 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 Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.