Conformity, acceptance two different things in long-putter ruling

By Rex HoggardSeptember 12, 2012, 4:29 pm

With one of the most dramatic potential rule changes looming in a decade it was not a surprise to see the likes of Spencer Levin, a long-putter convert enjoying his best year on the PGA Tour in 2012, practicing two weeks ago at TPC Boston with a standard-length putter.

In July at the British Open, U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis confirmed that the ongoing review of long putters and the act of anchoring clubs during a stroke was nearing an end, although he stressed at the time that no final decision had been made.

“We are committed to give some kind of answer this year. The reason for that we’ve said to the world we’re taking a fresh look at this,” Davis said.

Sources have suggested the ruling will come this month and many have speculated that the long putter’s days are numbered, which would explain Levin’s sudden interest in his previously discarded short putter, right?

“Is there a ruling?” Levin asked.

So maybe the potential change isn’t exactly keeping play-for-pay types up late and, to be clear, Davis & Co. have stressed that this isn’t about the long putter’s use on the PGA Tour so much as it is the club’s growing popularity among amateurs and newcomers to the game.

But that’s not to say a ruling against long putters, or anchoring, wouldn’t have a profound impact on players at the top of the bell curve. Consider Carl Pettersson, 35, who last used a short putter in 1997 when he was 20 years old.

“It would be unfortunate. It was legal when I first turned pro, I used it as an amateur,” Pettersson said. “I’d feel like I’m 15 years behind practicing, but it’s out of my control. I wouldn’t quit playing, I’d figure out some way to do it.”

Pettersson conceded that if the rule is changed he would consider a legal challenge given his historical use of the broom-handle putter. He also pointed out that unlike the rule change to grooves in 2010 a potential ruling on long putters, “doesn’t apply to everyone.”

Although the Tour does not track long-putter usage on the circuit, estimates among equipment representatives suggest that 10 to 15 percent of players use them.

Pettersson also pointed out that unlike players who use belly putters, the grip and stroke needed on a broom-handle putter is vastly different than any grip, be it traditional or otherwise, used on a short putter.

There is also the extreme case of Tim Clark, who is physically unable to hold a short putter the traditional way because of a condition that doesn’t allow him to pronate his wrist outwards.

Many of those who use long putters at the game’s highest level, a number that has continued to grow in recent years, share Pettersson’s opinion that whatever ruling is made Tour players will adjust, much like they did when the grooves were rolled back. But as they braced for a potential change there was no shortage of opinions.

“I don’t want to (get) a lawyer involved in any of that,” said Brian Harman, who earned his card last year in Q-School using a short putter and bounces between long- and standard-length models. “I’m like 100th on Tour in putting; I don’t live by this thing. It might help me out (if long putters are banned). I think there are guys who rely on it a lot more. What I don’t understand, if you want to make the game harder, eliminate hybrids. How is that legal? Make it so there are only two woods in your bag.”

Although the USGA and R&A have stressed that the recent review of long putters is in reaction to the implement’s growing popularity at the grassroots level, some Tour types view a potential change as reactionary given that three of the last five major championships have been won by players using long putters.

They also point out that, at least at the Tour level, there is little evidence to suggest that using a long putter mitigates the skills needed to putt well. Not a single player ranked in the top 10 in the circuit’s strokes gained-putting category and just two (Pettersson and James Driscoll) in the top 10 of total putting uses a long putter.

“I still think it’s a little bit of a kneejerk reaction, personally, just because some guys won some tournaments,” said J.J. Henry, who splits time between the long and short putters. “If it was for sure the way to putt there would be more guys using it. I don’t think it needs to be done. Let guys continue to do what they’ve been doing . . . forever really.”

Whatever the ruling this month Tour players will adjust, they always do. Just don’t expect them to like it.

Getty Images

PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

Getty Images

Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm

Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:16 pm

Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.

Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.

Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.

The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.