Seeing both sides to the long/anchored-putter debate

By Jason SobelJuly 30, 2012, 6:46 pm

Graeme McDowell says the long putter should be banned. Fred Couples is in favor of keeping it around. Gary Player thinks bifurcation should be an option. Ernie Els believes it's cheating – but as long as it's legal cheating, he'll keep using one.

Can't we all just get along?

When it comes to the hottest of golf's hot-button issues, the answer is no. We can't get along on a decision, because we can't even get along on what we're trying to decide.

Officials from both the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient have intimated that a ruling will be handed down by year's end. But a ruling on what, exactly?

“Well, the initial determination has been that we are examining the subject from a method of stroke standpoint rather than length of putter standpoint, and that takes it into the area of the rules of play, the Rules of Golf, rather than the rules of equipment,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said prior to the Open Championship. “Anchoring is what we're looking at – method of stroke – and it's all about putting around a fixed pivot point, whether that fixed pivot point is in your belly or under your chin or on your chest.”

Which means that those blindly wailing, “Ban the long putter!” are in effect sending an army to invade the wrong country.

Every time the topic is broached, it is intimated that long putters and anchoring the club to the body are interchangeable.

They aren’t one and the same, though.

Think about it: A golfer can brandish a long putter without anchoring it, just as he can anchor a club that isn't of non-standard length.

I know we're all supposed to have a strong opinion on the matter, but consider me the flip-floppingest fence-sitter around. I can see both sides from here, which means I can understand the positive and negative emanating from each camp.

If anchoring putters remains legal, it takes away some semblance for the need to have feel and touch – and, most importantly, nerves – on the greens. I get that much. After all, there’s a reason why legions of elite-level professionals have made the switch in recent years – and it’s not because they wanted a little extra challenge.

The term most often employed to condemn anchoring is “inorganic” and it’s more than just a buzzword. At the game’s grassroots, all clubs were meant to be standard length. Men such as Willie Park, Sr. and Old Tom Morris certainly weren’t jabbing the butt ends of putters into their stomachs. The current trend is less evolution than devolution.

That said, the battle cry to ban anchoring feels like a knee-jerk reaction to recent events.

Three of the last four major champions – Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els – have anchored long putters against their bodies all the way to the winner’s circle. Despite this forever being legal, proponents of banishment use this fact as the crux of their argument, in effect contending that if something helps players win, then it must be unlawful.

This also may fall under the category of “Don’t Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story.” Two weeks ago at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Els’ “cheating” method led to 122 putts for the week, good for a share of 71st of the 83 players who made the cut. Adam Scott, who finished one stroke back? He had just two fewer putts.

It’s certainly not a cure-all or else everyone would be doing it, rather than just the 20-30 percent average at most PGA Tour events. The fact is, though, a banishment of anchoring clubs without a limit on their length may not be a cure-anything.

Take Scott, for example. He holds the long putter with his top hand pressed slightly against his chest. If anchoring is outlawed but club length isn't limited, then he can theoretically move his hand a quarter-inch away from his chest and continue going about business as usual. Such a move would obviously alter his stroke, but hardly serve as the career-ender that many observers seem to expect from the long-putter establishment.

The debate over this issue is so contentious because there is no black and white answer.

It can bring into play the initial venture of bifurcation, which is just a really big word for having two sets of rules – one for professionals and one for amateurs. Just because the powers-that-be deem it against the spirit of the game for a player such as Els to anchor a long putter doesn’t mean they want to chase away the 80-year-old with an ailing back for whom the game is already difficult enough.

And then there’s the possibility of local rules, a hardly talked-about topic that could render any USGA and R&A decision and void on any given week during the PGA Tour season.

“It's something that we'll have to discuss,” Jim Furyk, a member of the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council (PAC), said last week. “It's happened before. … The Tour has gone opposite of what the USGA has done or done something different than the USGA, so it wouldn't be the first time.

“But you know, I would be out of line speaking really about what we would do as a board as an individual when we really haven't talked about it. It was mentioned to us. They've been talking about it for years, but it was brought to our attention that, you know, hey, I think this time they're serious, to put it in simple terms. If that's the case, we would need to talk as a Tour what we would do.”

Opinions on anchoring clubs are like swing thoughts: Everybody has a few and they’re all willing to share ‘em with the world without provocation.

Everyone except for me, apparently.

I can see both sides of the issue. You say anchoring the putter is inorganic and against the spirit of the rules? I agree. You contend it doesn’t provide an advantage and shouldn’t be subject to a knee-jerk reaction? I agree with that, too.

What I do know is that anchoring and long putters are two very different things that are being mistaken as interchangeable. And I know that if – OK, when – a ruling is handed down by the USGA and R&A later this year, mass confusion about only one becoming illegal will ensue in the aftermath.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.