Clock ticking as anchoring ban looms in 2016

By Rex HoggardJanuary 7, 2015, 6:35 pm

Along with a new calendar and the PGA Tour’s annual fortnight in Hawaii, the New Year always brings a slate of resolutions that are as varied as golf swings.

Phil Mickelson wants to lose 20 pounds and add a U.S. Open title, Tiger Woods wants to add 5 pounds and lose his orthopedic surgeon’s phone number; while Nick Price wants to lose six team matches from this year’s Presidents Cup and add a few countries to the International side, say England and Northern Ireland.

Other resolutions, however, are much more esoteric.

When Tim Clark tees off on Friday for Round 1 of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions he, along with a number of his Tour frat brothers, will officially be on the clock.

The U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient’s ban on anchoring is no longer some distant bridge that will need to be burned at a later date.

Change is coming and it’s time to embrace that reality.

Some, like Keegan Bradley who became the first player to win a major (2011 PGA Championship) using an anchored putter, have already begun the process.

“I’m trying to work my way into it,” said Bradley at December’s Hero World Challenge where he sported a non-anchored putter. “It feels comfortable, actually.”

Others, like Adam Scott, don’t appear to be in any real hurry to convert, but that will change as the Jan. 1, 2016, deadline approaches.

Dave Stockton Sr., who has become one of the Tour’s preeminent putting gurus, said the transition will be easier than many think, particularly among some of the game’s most high-profile players.

“In my era the long putters were the guys who couldn’t putt worth a lick, it didn’t matter what they used,” Stockton said in December. “But these days you have good athletes and it’s a totally different deal. That’s why I think they can use anything.”

Stockton expects many of those who currently anchor will either transition to the Matt Kuchar method of putting, which features a longer-than-normal shaft that is anchored (but legal under the new rule) in the forearm, or a combination of counter-balanced putters with oversized grips.

While the Kuchar method, which was developed with input from Stockton, has been successful for some, the mechanics of the stroke have made it difficult for others.

“I’ve had three or four guys try the Kuchar method, but there are a bunch of funky angles, you have to have 6 or 7 degrees of loft and it’s just weird,” said Scott Hamilton, who has emerged as one of the circuit’s top putting coaches. “I’ve got one in my putting studio but you have to get the perfect putter for you.”

Most experts agree the most difficult transitions will be for players who currently use broom-handle putters.

“Counter-balance putters will be the best option. You can float it (the end of the putter). You don’t have to have it anchored to you,” Stockton said. “Someone like Bernhard (Langer) is going to have a tough time because it’s up here (near his chin).”

Like Langer, Scott also uses a broom-handle putter, although he played with a standard-length model for much of his early career, which might explain why he was among a vocal minority who opposed the ban.

For Scott, the world’s third-ranked player, the answer to next January’s ban may be measured in fraction of inches.

“Guys like Adam Scott just won’t anchor, just hold it off their chest. They just have to figure out how to hold that thing off their body and putt,” Hamilton said.

Others may not face such an easy transition. Clark has used a belly putter since he joined the Tour in 2001 because of a condition that doesn’t allow him to supinate his forearms.

While players like Kevin Stadler have concocted unorthodox options to meet the impending change.

“His choice is if he’s not going to use an anchored putter he’s going to use a left-handed putter,” said Stockton, who has been working with Stadler to find a putting solution since last spring. “I’ve convinced him he can putt right-handed fine, but we’ll see.”

It is worth pointing out much of the concern seems historically misplaced. While the individual professional will surely endure his share of anxiety as he makes the transition, if similar rule changes are any indication the ban will do little to stem the Tour’s scoring onslaught.

The USGA and R&A dialed back the grooves in clubs in 2010 in an attempt to “reduce spin on shots played from the rough by highly skilled golfers . . . this should result in an increase in the importance of driving accuracy.”

Those who currently anchor should be encouraged by the fact that the overall driving accuracy average on Tour has decreased over the last five years and yet the scoring average (71.18 compared to the average over the previous five years of 71.38) has dropped. 

Maybe the best New Year’s resolution for those who currently anchor should be to worry less.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.