Anchoring issue all about the majors

By Rex HoggardMarch 27, 2013, 4:12 pm

“No one has ever won a major using one of these things (anchored putter). We don’t see this as something that is detrimental to the game.” – Mike Davis, U.S. Golf Association executive director, April 21, 2011.

When someone says, “It’s not about the money,” it’s always about the money.

Similarly, when officials from the USGA and R&A say the proposed ban on anchoring has nothing to do with the fact that three of the last five major championships have been won by players wielding anchored implements, it feels like the proposal has everything to do with recent history.

In Davis’ defense, when he told the “Morning Drive” crew in the spring of 2011 that he didn’t see anchoring as “detrimental to the game,” Keegan Bradley was a little-known PGA Tour rookie, Webb Simpson was still a great fall away from superstar status and Ernie Els had recently told reporters that using a long putter was akin to cheating.

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In the months that followed, Bradley stunned the golf world at Atlanta Athletic Club (2011 PGA Championship), Simpson emerged from golf’s version of Survivor Island at The Olympic Club (2012 U.S. Open) and Els outlasted the field at Royal Lytham (2012 British Open). All with long putters.

One hundred and twenty-nine days after Els hoisted his second claret jug, Davis and R&A chief executive Peter Dawson announced the proposed change to Rule 14-1b

“This is not a major-championship issue. This has been about the upsurge in general usage,” Davis said last fall when asked if the proposed rule change was reactionary. “We are looking to the future of the game and saying that we don’t think golf should be played this way.”

Those who have watched anchoring go from a non-story to a detriment in less than two years, however, contend golf would never have arrived at this anchoring crossroads had Bradley, Simpson and Els not shattered the Grand Slam barrier using anchored strokes.

“It would not have been a big deal. I don't think they would have considered it,” Els said. “Major championships are what the history of the game is all about, and obviously they don't want any more belly-putter players winning major championships, I don't believe. That's the real issue.”

The USGA and R&A’s lack of statistical data to support their claim that an anchored stroke is not a legal stroke also leads many play-for-pay types to contend this is a cosmetic change driven by perception.

It’s why the game’s rule makers did not make the proposed change to the Rules of Golf an equipment adjustment, and contend this is about the future of the game, not the past.

But for Tour types observing the proceedings from 30,000 feet, the argument that this change is for the good of the game, not a reaction to recent events, doesn’t withstand scrutiny.

Tim Clark, who has used a long putter for 15 years, called the proposed ban “unjust,” and Adam Scott, a more recent convert, said the move was “subjective” and akin to “changing the rules mid-round.”

Brendan Steele became a standard bearer for the long putter movement on Tour in 2011 when he won the Texas Open using an anchored putter at 28 years old, and watched the argument slowly build against long putters.

“There wasn’t a stigma attached to it when guys who were older went to it or guys that were really bad putters went it, but they didn’t like it when guys who were younger went to it just because it was a better way to putt,” said Steele, who converted to a long putter in 2006. “You don’t let it go when a few guys are doing it and then, if somebody wins a major, ‘no way that’s a huge problem.’”

As the USGA and R&A inch closer to a conclusion – the 90-day comment period ended on Feb. 28 and officials say they will make a final decision later this spring – most Tour players have resigned themselves to the inevitability of the ban. Just don’t expect them to buy into the reasoning the rule makers have given for the proposed ban.

“That’s been my issue with this all along. Just stand up there and say it,” Steele said. “‘We don’t like that guys that are 26 years old are winning majors with it. It was OK when our buddies around the club picked it up at 60, but not at the highest level.’ At least then I’d respect it a little more.”

For Els & Co., when the USGA and R&A say it’s not about the majors, it’s always about the majors.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''