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.

Anchored-putter debate: Articles, videos and photos

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.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry