No right or wrong answer to anchoring debate

By Jason SobelMay 21, 2013, 8:05 pm

The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements.”

FORT WORTH, Texas – The preceding comment on the game’s biggest hot-button issue didn’t come from the mind of USGA executive director Mike Davis, nor was it spoken by fellow head honchos Glen Nager or Mark Newell. It wasn’t part of R&A chief executive Peter Dawson’s brazen directive. In fact, it had nothing to do with Tuesday’s landmark decision to ban the anchored stroke beginning on Jan. 1, 2016.

They are the words of Ernest Hemingway.

With exactly 955 days remaining for us to collectively jab the butt ends of putters into our belly buttons and sternums, it is important to understand that this issue, in some shape or form, has subsisted within the game’s inner circles for years and its outer circles for just as long, with Hemingway offering dialogue on the matter as an analogy to grammar in a letter published in 1925. (His initial comparison: “My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible.”)


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The debate has spanned decades, from Ernest the author to Ernie the anchorer. It was Els who once famously stated, “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of ‘em.” In the wake of Rule 14-1b being implemented into the Rules of Golf, reactions have ranged across the spectrum, with hardly a fence-rider among us. The problem – or perhaps more to the point, the promotion – is that like all equitable debates, there are valid points to be made on all sides of the issue.

Davis argued Tuesday that the governing bodies are simply righting a long-standing wrong. “This was about protecting the fundamentals of what we believe the game has always been and that we do believe this has been a divisive issue that needed to be cleared up.”

Brian Harman employs an anchored putter and doesn’t see why a non-professional’s opinion should adversely affect his career. “It bothers me that guys that have no stake in the game decide how guys are going to make a living doing. I don’t see it (using an anchored stroke) being a huge deal. We have no say in the way that they make those rules. I don’t see how that’s fair.”

Tom Lehman similarly agrees and wonders whether the ruling will impact the USGA and R&A’s global power. “I think the USGA and R&A are setting themselves up for a situation where people don’t follow their lead, which will diminish their credibility as ruling bodies, and I think there’s a potential problem with that.”

Brendan Steele recently switched from anchoring to gripping the putter against his forearm, which will remain legal in 2016 and beyond, but understands the benefit of doing what’s best for him professionally. “I’m going to putt however I can best get the ball into the hole this week and then deal with it moving forward. I’m using the [Matt] Kuchar-style because I feel like it’s the best chance for me to hole putts this week.”

Individually, each argument reeks of common sense – even those which contradict each other. And therein lies the greatest dilemma: There is no right or wrong here.

Unlike drug testing on the game’s elite levels (“All for it,” we say) or slow play (“Let’s erase it,” we contest) or participation (“Need to fix it,” we cry), there is no universal recommendation for the anchoring rule.

Personally, I’d be willing to take part in a Bad News Bears-like chanting process outside the USGA’s Far Hills, N.J., headquarters. “Let them play! Let them play!” But when I listen to Davis or Dawson or a majority of PGA Tour professionals who are in favor of anchoring going belly up in a few years, it’s not as if I view them with disdain or derision. The truth is, I can fully understand their point.

Compounding the matter is the fact that neither answer has been – or will ever be – proven right or wrong. Just as an anchoring ban supporter will quickly point out that four of the last six major championships were won by players placing the end of the putter against their bodies, a contrarian will counter by allowing that the first 418 majors in the game’s history had exactly zero anchoring winners.

What we’re left with is an issue which has two logical points of view and no correct answer. It has become golf’s ultimate enigma, a Rubik’s Cube incapable of being solved. Even so, those who govern and preserve the game declared they uncovered this enigma, accepting their own proposal to the delight and doubt of many.

From Ernest to Ernie, it’s a story which has influenced the game for decades. Trying to solve this problem will only serve to keep it at the forefront.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.