Anchoring battle about who gets to make the rules

By Rex HoggardFebruary 27, 2013, 6:54 pm

Late last year on a scorching Lowcountry afternoon, Golf Channel funnyman/on-course reporter David Feherty launched into a surprisingly impassioned indictment of golf’s current rulemaking process.

“Why don’t professional golfers makes rules for professional golf?” pleaded Feherty, his face red from sunburn and exasperation. “We’re the only sport that we allow amateurs to do it. That’s fine if you’re a proctologist or whatever, but it’s not working for me.”

The Northern Irishman was venting over a rules infraction that cost Carl Pettersson two strokes on his first hole to begin the final round of the 2012 PGA Championship, but he may well have been speaking for a growing number of play-for-pay types.

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The current issue is the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club’s proposed ban on anchoring, and the PGA Tour spoke with one voice on Sunday when commissioner Tim Finchem announced the circuit’s opposition to the potential ban.

Feherty’s words seemed to echo last week as some players dug in on the proposed ban. For some this is no longer about long putters or anchoring – that ship has likely sailed – as much as it is a system that in some circles has become antiquated by the modern game.

“It’s like there was a conclave and the smoke went up and Webb Simpson is a cheater. That’s not right,” reasoned one player.

In the USGA and R&A’s defense, the comment period, which ends on Thursday, is, by design, intended to give all of the shareholders a voice in the rulemaking process, but for some players it felt like window dressing.

Perhaps the USGA and R&A will change direction and back off on the proposed ban, which would go into effect in 2016, but that didn’t seem likely as we inch toward a final decision later this spring. From that possibility has emerged a larger, more esoteric debate.

“I have said all along, take anchoring out of the equation, is this the best way to make rules for our sport? Should the PGA Tour make its own rules? No. Should the PGA Tour and the PGA of America and the USGA and R&A and journalists be involved? I think so,” said Paul Goydos, one of four player directors on the policy board. “I don’t think this is the way we should be writing rules for our sport.”

Goydos is hardly a lone voice on this issue, although during last week’s conference calls with the player advisory council and policy board, the conversation never ventured into whether the Tour should consider getting into the rulemaking business, sources say.

“I don’t think the Tour is trying to rewrite the rulebook,” said one member of the 16-player PAC. “I personally don’t see what the big deal is. The rhetoric among the players is as high as it has ever been in questioning why we are governed by an amateur organization (USGA and R&A).”

It’s a credit to Finchem that he’s been able to keep his players largely fixated on the anti-ban talking points, which are the potential ban’s impact on the growth of the game and a disturbing lack of statistical data to support the USGA and R&A’s concerns with anchored putting.

The alternative would be a perception issue that the Tour could lose in the court of public opinion. A power struggle between the Tour and golf’s rule makers to save anchoring for a small percentage of players – one official estimated the number of players who anchor on any given week ranges between 10 to 15 percent – would appear self-serving and shortsighted.

On this, Finchem has been clear. Although he maintains the Tour’s right to make its own rules he has repeatedly stopped short of suggesting bifurcation is the answer to the current anchoring quagmire.

Finchem has no interest in getting into the rulemaking business, but like Goydos, he seemed to suggest on Sunday at Dove Mountain that it might be time to make the process a tad more inclusive.

“Transparency, openness, discussion, input involving people across the spectrum in terms of rulemaking, particularly as it relates to equipment rules, is very, very important,” said Finchem.

For the Tour, there is an inherent problem with wholesale bifurcation that is rooted in the complex realities of a global game as well as the traditions of golf. While the current system is not perfect, the alternative could be equal parts messy and self-serving.

“The hardest thing to do is get a rational, non-biased opinion for what is best for the game and the Tour without your own personal feelings coming into it,” said Brad Faxon, a former policy board member and a member of the Champions Tour’s PAC. “Who really has the best interest of the game? That’s why you have to leave governing away from us, the players, and follow the rules.”

Although bifurcation has become a buzz word of late, in many ways it is something of a “nuclear option.” If the Tour breaks with the USGA and R&A on anchoring the possibility exists, however unlikely it may seem, that there would be one set of rules for Tour play and probably the PGA Championship (the PGA of America has sided with the Tour in opposition to the ban) while the U.S. and British Opens and possibly The Masters would be played under a separate set of rules.

If the European Tour supports the ban, which recent reports have suggested, there is also the issue of what set of rules the World Golf Championships and Ryder Cups in Europe are played under.

It’s the type of distractions Finchem has successfully avoided for most, if not all, of his tenure, and why the Tour will ultimately fall in line if the anchoring ban is approved. Yet the message Finchem sent on Sunday is unmistakable: this isn’t about changing rules; it’s about changing how the rules are made.

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

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Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.

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''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.

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With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.

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Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

“I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.