Politics played major role in Tour adopting ban

By Jason SobelJuly 1, 2013, 9:06 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – When the USGA and R&A first proposed an anchoring ban and asked other influencers within the game for an assessment during a lengthy comment period, the PGA Tour was amongst the most vocal, opposing the notion with passionate dissension.

On Monday, that very same PGA Tour announced that it plans to adopt the anchoring ban, which has gone from nominated proposal to Rule 14-1b, starting Jan. 1, 2016, in effect agreeing to a rule that it had previously opposed.

If this 180-degree reversal sounds like the ultimate contradiction, it should. After all, we’re just months removed from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem publicly denouncing the idea in multiple forums. Now he’s prepared to embrace it.

So what happened? Why did the PGA Tour flip the script on this plotline? How did its policy board so quickly change its collective mind on this issue?

Well, the truth is, it didn’t.

But to understand why and how, we need to look back to the 1960 presidential election.

That year’s emotionally charged campaign race pitted John F. Kennedy, a charismatic senator from Massachusetts, against incumbent vice president Richard M. Nixon in an election that garnered increased interest thanks in part to the first-ever televised debates. Among those captivated by the proceedings was a 13-year-old boy in Virginia named Timothy Finchem, who would later credit that presidential race with first getting him intrigued by politics.

His hobby soon became his passion, the political process consuming his formative years. Finchem would study political science at the University of Richmond, then get into the political arena even more during law school. He later ran a senate campaign in Virginia, which led to a job as deputy advisor to the office of economic affairs for the Jimmy Carter administration, coordinating economic initiatives within the White House.

Eventually, Finchem would leave politics to start practicing law. Even after becoming PGA Tour commissioner in 1994, though, he always relied on that political background to help navigate his way through potentially chaotic situations.


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Official statement from the PGA Tour on anchor ban


Therein lies the connection between that long ago presidential election and the impending anchoring ban.

As with many issues that have arisen during his tenure, Finchem has viewed this one with the agenda of a politician. That notion may come saddled with a negative connotation, but it doesn’t need be.

The feeling inside PGA Tour circles is that the organization was always going to adopt the anchoring ban. Rather than simply state that from the beginning, though, Finchem looked at the ramifications of such an announcement with an eye toward his constituency.

Since the commissioner in effect works for – and certainly with – the membership, outwardly lauding the initial proposal would have garnered a backlash from the admittedly small minority of anchorers who felt that Finchem didn’t have their best interests at heart.

It may have been posturing, but initially opposing the proposal was Finchem’s way of saying to the likes of Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Adam Scott, “I’ve got your back on this one.” Rather than hang certain members of his organization out to dry, the commissioner publicly voiced his support for their cause.

Now that the policy board has approved Rule 14-1b, any potential backlash from the anchoring group is pacified due to Finchem’s original stance. None can maintain he didn’t support them because the truth is – at least publicly – he did.

If that sounds like a shrewd political move, it doesn’t end there.

Finchem counts himself among the many titans of the golf industry who believe that bifurcation – a separate set of rules for professionals and amateurs – has no place in the game. These traditionalists will contend that one of the many beauties of the game is that a Sunday morning foursome at the local muni plays to the exact same set of rules as the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in a professional competition. It’s a common bond that is uncommon in so many other sports.

By reversing its stance on the anchoring ban – or at least acquiescing to the ruling of the USGA and R&A – the PGA Tour is in effect flinching first in this substantial game of chicken. But again, it’s a politically charged strategy. With this announcement, Finchem will contend the policy board’s decision was due largely in part to not wanting to create bifurcation.

It’s a strategy that in many circles will leave the commissioner as a heroic figure for his ability to accept the ban so as to not initiate two separate sets of rules within the game.

Whether these politically charged practices are seen as craftily ingenious or deviously underhanded depends solely on the observer. The reality is, they’re probably a little of both, with the PGA Tour protecting its honor and protecting its players, but ultimately getting its way in the matter. Some would contend they’re having their cake and eating it, too.

What can’t be argued is that there was indeed a political agenda at play here. Finchem is well versed in the strategies involved in such issues. He’s implemented them in the past with similar success and this matter was no different, as he planned three, four, five steps ahead at every checkpoint throughout the process.

It may not explain everything about this decision, but it does serve to explain how an organization that outwardly opposed an anchoring ban just a few months ago is voting in support of it this week.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”



Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.



Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)