Governing bodies need to come together like it's 1951

By Rex HoggardApril 24, 2013, 5:41 pm

FAR HILLS, N.J. – Tucked into a corner of the USGA’s Golf House is an exhibit unlike any other in the association’s sprawling museum.

The simple display doesn’t honor a player or tournament or career, but a pivotal moment in time when golf had reached a contentious crossroads, a time when the game was ruled by regional factions with sometimes competing interests.

Sound familiar?

The display reads, simply, “The 1951 Rules conference.” But what happened over four days in the spring of ’51 unified the game through its rules.

The conference, which began in London before adjourning to St. Andrews, Scotland, included a dozen of the game’s leaders from the USGA, R&A, Royal Canadian Golf Association and Australian Golf Union. Born from those four days and 12 open minds was a unified Rules of Golf for the entire planet.

“For four days those 12 men explored every phase of the rules,” wrote Joe Dey, the executive director of the USGA at the time. “There were no axes to grind, no ultra-nationalistic views. They were just golf lovers and they worked together in complete harmony.”

Anchored-putter debate: Articles, videos and photos

It seemed strangely apropos that on the same day your scribe stumbled upon the exhibit, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson made the best case to date for a similar détente between golf’s powerbrokers.

“People have taken positions that they will now have to back off from or maintain. The negotiating table is no place for rule-making,” Dawson told The Independent. “Obviously, feelings are strong. We shall have to see where it goes. … The bodies in golf have always been working well together and mutually respectful of each other's position. But this latest incident has set this back.”

This being the USGA and R&A’s proposed plan to ban anchoring, perhaps the most contentious issue golf has faced since that ’51 meeting in the United Kingdom.

Only the players have changed. On one hand there are the established rule makers, the USGA and R&A, and their conclusion “that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional strokes.”

It’s not the relatively sudden success of the anchored stroke at the game’s highest level – Adam Scott completed the Anchored Slam at this month’s Masters, giving anchored strokes four wins in the last six majors – that the rule makers say is concerning, but the widespread use of longer-than-standard-length putters at the grassroots level.

On the other side of the philosophical divide are the PGA Tour and PGA of America, which both came out against the proposed ban on anchoring during the 90-day comment period earlier this year.

“We feel strongly that going down that road would be a mistake,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in February.

PGA of America president Ted Bishop was even more pointed, warning that any rule that inhibits the already weak growth of golf simply won’t do.

“Bifurcation seems destined if (the proposed ban) is implemented,” he wrote in a column in March. “It has become one of the most divisive issues that modern-day golf has seen.”

What the ’51 rules-conference dozen built seems in peril if the USGA and R&A move forward with the ban, unless those involved can reach a similar accord. It’s that harsh reality that has likely stalled a final decision on the proposal, which was supposed to be made this spring.

But as the azaleas begin to fade and golf charges into summer, no final announcement seems imminent. Perhaps Mike Davis, the USGA’s thoughtful executive director, is using the extra time to sway Finchem and Bishop’s seemingly rigid stance on the issue.

In some ways, Davis is the modern embodiment of Dey, a pragmatist and consensus builder who is not blind to the realities of the modern game which is driven from the top (the Tour) down. And, at least in Finchem’s case, there seems to be room for an accord, which is not surprising considering that before he took over in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the commish was a Washington lobbyist.

In February the Tour chief dismissed the growing notion of a “donnybrook” between the Tour and the USGA and R&A, and left the door open for compromise.

The display honoring Dey and the other members of the ’51 conference is less than a 9-iron from Davis’ office in Far Hills. All it would take is a stroll over to Golf House, and the will to pull together the principals in the anchoring debate for an open and honest discussion.

Or, as Dey said more than 60 years ago, commence a gathering where, “There were no axes to grind, no ultra-nationalistic views. They were just golf lovers and they worked together in complete harmony.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.