Challenging anchored ban in court could prove difficult

By Rex HoggardOctober 31, 2012, 8:02 pm


Like that, the U.S. Golf Association’s Halloween was suddenly filled with more tricks and less treats, thanks to an unmistakable salvo from Keegan Bradley, who told Golf Channel contributor Alex Miceli this week in China, “I’m going to do whatever I have to do to protect myself and the other players on Tour.”

Bradley’s challenge, interpreted in some circles as a precursor to legal action, was directed at an impending announcement from the USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews that, according to various sources, will ban the act of anchoring during a stroke and, effectively, the long putter.

Both ruling bodies have been publicly silent on the ruling, which would likely outlaw anchoring beginning with the next rules cycle in 2016, but last month at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort, USGA executive director Mike Davis met with the PGA Tour Policy Board to discuss the issue.

“It seems like they’ve made up their mind (to ban anchoring) and they are just trying to get people on their side,” said one policy board player director.

Davis & Co. made the same pitch this week to players at the WGC-HSBC Champions which likely prompted Bradley’s bold stand, but the cloud of legal action has been hanging low over the issue for months.

It has been widely assumed that some players might challenge the move in court, but until Bradley no one had been so definitive. In theory, the case to save anchoring is straightforward enough.

Carl Pettersson, for example, hasn’t used a conventional-length putter since 1997 and it stretches the boundaries of fair play to change the rules mid-round, so to speak.

“It’s unfortunate I’ve had 15 years of practice with the long putter,” he said earlier this year at TPC Boston. “I would definitely feel like I’m 15 years behind in practice.”

But in practical terms there doesn’t seem to be a lot of case law when it comes to these types of issues. Specifically, under what legal premise would Bradley challenge a potential ban?

“They can always sue, whether they will be successful is the question,” said Ron Quillin, a Wisconsin-based personal injury attorney with the firm Lawyers at Work.

We may live in a litigious society but that doesn’t mean the courts would rush to intervene on Bradley & Co.’s behalf.

According to Quillin, the legal concept of “laches” may apply given how long the ruling bodies have allowed the act of anchoring.

“The USGA has let this happen for some 25 years,” he said. “You can make that legal argument that they’ve allowed it to happen for so long they should be barred from changing the rule. You do have these concepts in the law, but I’m not sure it applies to this situation.”

Tim Clark, who uses a belly putter, may be the exception to the legal dilemma. Clark was born with a condition that doesn’t allow the South African to pronate his wrists outward, making putting with a traditional-length putter difficult, if not impossible.

Under that limited scope Clark could have a case under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the same law used by Casey Martin to successfully challenge the PGA Tour’s ban on the use of golf carts during tournaments.

“The definition is pretty loose and they are liberal about defining it,” Quillin said. “You have to have a recognizable problem. It would make for a court action, but I don’t know if you’d be able to win under those grounds.”

Even if the courts were to rule in Clark’s favor in such a situation it would be limited to only those who could prove a physical inability to putt without anchoring, and there seems little chance the U.S. Supreme Court would fancy the notion that the yips are a physical ailment.

Nor does there seem to be much of a chance the USGA and R&A would create a grandfather clause that would allow longtime users of long putters, like Pettersson, to finish their careers the way they started them.

“It’s like in baseball you can outlaw the (spit ball) and then say this guy has been throwing a spitter his whole life we should let him use it, but everyone knows it’s just out and out cheating,” Quillin said.

A potential legal challenge from an equipment manufacturer of a new rule on anchoring would seem to have a better chance, but even that may be mitigated by how the ruling bodies seem to be crafting the ban.

Manufacturers have in the past successfully challenged new rules, most notably the 1990 lawsuit involving Ping’s square grooves, but by making it a rules of the game issue (anchoring) and not an equipment issue the ruling bodies seem to have limited their exposure.

Davis seemed to suggest as much in July when asked if the new rule could be as simple as making the putter the shortest club in a player’s bag. “I can give you 50 reasons why that wouldn’t work,” he said.

Which brings us back to Bradley, Pettersson and Clark who will certainly be aggrieved by a potential ban, but proving it in court may end up being more difficult than a downhill 6-footer.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.