Bradley, Simpson, Els victims of their own success

By Jason SobelNovember 28, 2012, 6:45 pm

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – If golf’s purists support a ban on anchored putting, we can only imagine the admonishment sportswriters of yesteryear would place upon today’s generation of web-surfing simpletons whose memories can be employed for less noble pursuits than fact-checking.

Well, much like those golfers who will continue jabbing the butt end of a putter into their midsections for the next three years, I’ll keep using Google until the day our governing bodies rule the process is against the long-standing traditions of the craft. Also like them, our application of search engines is only an advantage if we know how to use them, though doing so can result in a certain reliance on them as a crutch – and yes, that correlation works for golfers using anchored putters and sportswriters using Google. Observers should consider both parties victims of their own success.

In gravely stereotypical fashion, I performed a Google search for that five-word phrase and found a stunning array of results to match. Microsoft. Coyotes. Democrats. The Spanish national soccer team. Bobby Fischer. Neanderthals. Vaccinations. Groupon.

Each one has been referred to at some point as a victim of their own success. We can now officially add the likes of Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els to that list, too.

Anchored-stroke ruling: Articles, video and photos

There was nothing curious about the timing of Wednesday morning’s joint announcement by the USGA and R&A that they have proposed a rules change to place a ban on all anchored putters beginning on Jan. 1, 2016. After close to three decades of golfers employing this style on various levels with varying degrees of prosperity without any sort of proposal, three of the last five major championships have been won by players who anchored themselves on the greens before anchoring themselves to the winner’s circle.

To their credit, the game’s governing bodies attempted to quash any notion that recent success led to the direct downfall of the anchored putter. Early in the news conference, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson proclaimed, “I think we have to make it very clear that this proposed rule change is not directly performance-related,” then followed just seconds later by reiterating, “I emphasize the reason for proceeding with this rule change is not performance-related.”

Dawson may not mince words, but he also isn’t being completely honest with himself, if not the rest of us. No, the ban on anchored putters doesn’t come as a direct corollary of three players winning majors, but as part of the domino effect witnessed in the wake of such triumphs.

Allow Bradley to explain in this thoughtful analogy:

“Growing up, when we watched Tiger [Woods], we all wanted to be like Tiger, so everyone that I knew had to have a Nike hat. That was Tiger's thing. And you saw everybody on the golf course with it. You still do,” he said. “I think it's totally natural to see a bunch more belly putters and long putters in the younger game because they're seeing all of us do it. … Just like when I was a younger kid and I had to have a Tiger Woods hat, they want to try the belly putter. They didn't see me last year at this tournament come in almost dead last. I couldn't make anything. But you see on Sunday the putts going in, and I think that's totally natural. You see a lot of the younger generation doing what they see on TV.”

Therein lies the main theme for these players: Victims of their own success.

If Bradley doesn’t win the 2011 PGA Championship while brandishing a belly putter, fewer pro shops and retail outlets start carrying them. If fewer pro shops and retail outlets start carrying them, fewer young players start using them. If fewer young players start using them, then maybe a kid like 14-year-old Tianlang Guan never picks one up and putts his way into golf’s record books by qualifying for the Masters before entering high school.

If this sounds like a never-ending cycle of regression, congratulations: You see eye-to-eye with the USGA and R&A. Without directly addressing the younger generation of golfers on Wednesday, officials were clearly unnerved by reports at some recent junior tournaments that said nearly half of all competitors were anchoring putters.

And so a decision had to be made. Either continue allowing this style at all levels or force a cruel termination in the aftermath of so much fruition. The caretakers of the game opted for the latter and while they staunchly oppose the inference that their decision culminated from those major championship victories, there’s zero doubt that these performances helped force their hand and speed up the timeline of action.

It’s unrealistic to speak in hypotheticals, but we still have to wonder: If Bradley hadn’t sunk an improbable 35-footer on the penultimate hole of last year’s PGA Championship, if Simpson hadn’t coolly knocked in his devilish par attempt on the final hole of the U.S. Open, if Els hadn’t banged in a birdie bid at the Open Championship that he believed was for second place, would Wednesday’s announcement had taken place?

In an ironic paradox, those three players championed the cause for anchored putters while also unintentionally championing the cause to have them banned.

It is the very definition of becoming victims of their own success.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.