Champions Tour PAC tackles anchored putters, bifurcation

By Rex HoggardFebruary 8, 2013, 12:02 am

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Michael Allen leaned against his 47-inch mallet-headed putter, choked back a smirk and went on the offensive as a reporter approached him on a warm morning in south Florida.

“You’re going right to the long putter,” he sighed.

“We could go straight to deer-antler spray,” the reporter shot back.

“That’s easy, don’t know what it is but I think some guys are getting more hair on top of their head,” Allen laughed before launching into a brief review of the Champions Tour Player Advisory Council meeting early Thursday at the Allianz Championship.

Allen had already come to grips with the fact that, however reluctantly, he had arrived at the epicenter of the ongoing anchoring debate.

“They said that’s why I’m there,” Allen smiled when asked about his unique position on the 13-player PAC. Of the 12 PAC members who attended Thursday’s meeting he was the only one who regularly uses a long putter, although statistically those demographics don’t dovetail with the number of Champions Tour members who anchor.

According to officials at the meeting, which lasted about an hour, 18 percent of Champions Tour players use a belly or long putter. Anecdotally that two of the three players (Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples) on the cover of this year’s Champions Tour media guide use long putters is a more relevant snapshot of anchoring’s status among the seniors.

As the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient march toward a final decision on the proposed anchoring ban – the deadline for the current 90-day comment period ends on Feb. 26 – attention has turned to the PGA Tour and how the play-for-pay world will deal with the possible ban.

Two weeks ago at the Farmers Insurance Open, USGA executive director Mike Davis spoke at a player meeting that featured an impassioned presentation from Tim Clark, a long-time user of the long putter, and the next day commissioner Tim Finchem left the door open to the possibility that the circuit could deviate from a potential anchoring ban, although many contend that is not likely.

Yet where the PGA Tour and commissioner seemed poised to stay out of the rule making business, and avoid a bifurcation of the Rules of Golf, the Champions Tour, an entity unto itself, may well become the metaphorical line in the anchoring sand pit.

The idea that the Champions Tour could ignore the proposed ban seemed to gain momentum, at least in theory, following Thursday’s meeting.

“I would hate to break away from what the PGA Tour does, but yeah. I probably would (be in favor of bifurcation on the senior circuit),” said Peter Jacobsen, a member of the Champions Tour PAC. “To keep people like Langer, a Hall of Fame superstar and one of the best people I’ve ever met, to keep him playing. Michael Allen, Fred Couples, go down the list. I want these guys playing. We probably could (bifurcate).”

In many ways the Champions Tour already exercises a level of bifurcation with the PGA Tour. Senior players are allowed to use golf carts during rounds, at least currently, and as we’ve learned over the last week the senior circuit does not test players for performance-enhancing drugs.

Taking the fork in the road away from the USGA, and probably the PGA Tour, would seem an easy choice if faced with the alternative, which would be running some of the circuit’s top stars out of the game.

“I would certainly try (to putt) another way,” Langer said. “It depends on what happens and we’re still in the question phase, but if I don’t enjoy the game anymore then I would stop playing.”

Not every Champions Tour PAC member was in favor of the circuit creating its own rules. Brad Faxon, one of the game’s best putters and a first-year PAC member, didn’t seem as open to the idea of two sets of rules as Jacobsen and Allen.

“I don’t think we would (bifurcate). That would be a mistake for us to do something different,” Faxon said. “It’s a hot topic especially out here. But the hardest thing to do is to get a rational, non-biased opinion on what is best for the game and what is best for the tour. . . . Who really has the best interest of the game? That’s where we have to leave governing away from us.”

Champions Tour officials plan to survey the members and draft a report in an attempt to gain a consensus on anchoring in advance of the measure’s final vote later this spring.

“We want to get an idea where everybody is. Just like in politics you are going to have way right and way left. We need to listen to the guys in between and figure out what is best for this Tour and what’s best for golf,” Jacobsen said.

With one in five players on the senior circuit using a longer-than-standard-length putter the electorate, more so than on the PGA Tour, may well be less concerned with unification than they are self-preservation.

“I don’t understand why the PGA Tour doesn’t make its own rules in the first place. Just because we have a certain set of rules out here doesn’t mean that you playing in your club championship can’t use them,” said Allen, a three-time winner on the over-50 circuit, including the 2009 Senior PGA Championship with a belly putter. “It’s just going to drive people from the game.”

Allen was echoing a concern held by many of his PAC frat brothers that a ban on anchoring may drive amateurs away from the game, but the same sentiment applies for a collection of Champions Tour stars like Langer and Couples. And that may be the best case for bifurcation to date.

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.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.