Players remain open-minded on proposed anchor ban

By Jason SobelFebruary 26, 2013, 10:55 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Boy, these PGA Tour players are an open-minded bunch.

I spent much of Tuesday asking many of them about anchored putting, which just happens to be the most polarizing issue in the game today.

You might think my questions would be countered with passionate responses. Raised voices. Adamant opinions. Finger pointing. Foot stomping.

You’d be wrong.

Instead, they were met with resounding tolerance. These players could go either way. Give or take. They’ve approached the matter without any preconceived notions.

Collectively, they are golf’s version of the independent party, choosing not to align themselves with any specific side based on previous personal preference.

That’s not a criticism. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Players should be commended for individually examining the issue and picking a side – or better yet, picking both.

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“I can see both sides to it,” Jason Dufner explained. “It doesn’t affect me because I don’t use one. Obviously I play against guys that use them, but I don’t see an overall trend where guys who are putting with them are just making every putt. There’s not a lot of evidence that supports it’s an unfair advantage.”

“I don’t care whether they keep it or ban it,” said Ricky Barnes. “I’m on the fence – 55 one way, 45 the other – but let’s keep playing off one set of rules.”

“I was originally indifferent,” Mark Wilson admitted. “I was like, I don’t care because I don’t putt that way. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it will drive people away from the game and we don’t want that to happen.”

The game is in a sticky situation these days. On Nov. 28, the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club jointly announced that they would propose a ban on anchored putting. Officials for the former organization sought a recommendation from the PGA Tour during a 90-day comment period. On Sunday, with that period soon coming to an end, commissioner Tim Finchem echoed the voices of the policy board and player advisory committee by announcing an opposition to the ban.

That announcement was due in no small part to this open-mindedness of the players. Many were swayed by an impassioned Tim Clark at last month’s player meeting. Others came to the conclusion through conclusive data or simply by speaking with peers.

“I think initially when they announced it, a lot of guys were like, ‘Yeah, I’m all for that; I use a short putter and they shouldn’t be allowed to use those,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “But I think the longer they’ve had discussions with friends and heard all the arguments from guys like Tim [Clark] and Carl [Pettersson] and Kevin Stadler and Webb [Simpson] and all that, they’ve perhaps gained a little sympathy for the other side of the argument.”

If nothing else, all of this news has forced the game’s elite-level professionals to think – think about whether anchoring is against the spirit of the rules, think about whether bifurcation is the proper route, think about the hypothetical ramifications of pitting a few of the game’s most powerful organizations against each other.

After all, if neither side ducks in this global game of chicken, there is a very real possibility that anchored putting could be allowed every week on the PGA Tour, but disallowed in at least two of the four major championships, if not more.

“Not that I totally agree with everything the USGA does, but I think they usually do a pretty good job,” Barnes said. “My theory is that if they do ban it, then I think we should follow suit. But if we don’t, then I don’t agree that the one week we do play the U.S. Open or the British Open that it’s banned. I think it will take away from the game, because I think some of those players who anchor their putter won’t play in those tournaments – and that’s the wrong thing for the game.”

“I don’t think there’s ever been a precedent where the Tour says, ‘We don’t support this,’” Dufner added. “But in my opinion, I don’t think we’re going to have an anchoring ban. I think it’s going to go away. In this case, the PGA Tour might be a little bit stronger than what the USGA and R&A are trying to do.”

Apparently you can get a pretty good view of things when you’re sitting high on the fence.

Maybe it’s a trickle-down effect. The game’s No. 1-ranked player, Rory McIlroy, spoke about the issue on Tuesday with equal parts candor and impartiality.

“I'm all for people enjoying the game and trying to make the game as easy as possible and bringing people to the game,” he said. “If that means that they should allow belly putters or anchored putters to make it easier for the general public, then you know, that's a good thing. But then they talk about bifurcation and whether you should have one set of rules for us and one set of rules for the amateurs; it's just a bit of a mess. It's just opened a can of worms.”

Worms can be a useful tool. They help catch fish; they aid gardens in growing. In this case, the can of worms has brought open-mindedness to the game’s top golfers that isn’t always so evident.

Most polarizing issues tend to tear opposite sides apart. This one seems to be bringing them together in a way, at least in the sense that everyone is collectively thinking about what is best for the game.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”