#AskLav: Anchored putters again take center stage

By Ryan LavnerJuly 4, 2013, 12:28 pm

These are the confessions of an anchorer.

Yes, I’ve used a belly putter since November 2011, and no, the timing was not accidental – I switched three months after Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major while anchoring his putter.

Of course, that’s at odds with the USGA talking points. They have always maintained that anchorers bagging four titles in a six-major stretch had nothing to do with the 2016 ban. They insisted they were trying to define what was a stroke for generations to come. They cited a “tremendous spike in usage,” and indeed there was, especially in the Lavner household. 

Because after watching Bradley prevail in that PGA playoff, and after researching for months the benefits of The Belly, I headed to my local golf shop here in Orlando, lined up 15 balls about 10 feet from the cup, and sank them all. Sold. I bought the putter, right there, no questions asked. (Only later did I discover that the store’s putting green funneled every ball toward the cup, thus tricking naïve customers such as myself that they could make everything with any putter.)

Anyway, like many tour pros, this switch to the long wand was out of desperation. By that point, I had tried just about everything on the greens, with minimal success. Left-hand low. Claw. Overlap. Reverse overlap. Interlock. Fingers down the shaft. Narrow stance. Wide stance. Forward press. Ball back in stance. Pop stroke. Putterhead down the line. Eyes closed. Eyes fixed on the cup. … Only the Kuchar-style arm bar and those fancy counterbalanced putters are left on my to-try list.

Nothing had really worked, which is why the lone highlight of my career, the single shining moment, remains the 2005 high school league championship, when I played out of my mind to shoot 74 and win by six, a performance that illustrated both my low ceiling as a prospect and the weak competition that existed in the Finger Lakes region in New York. Here was a poor man’s John Senden – solid ball-striker, utterly lost on the greens. 

But a strange thing happened after switching to the belly putter in late 2011. Now, I at least feel like I can make putts. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m making more putts, or that I’m a better green-reader, or that I have a better stroke. Probably none of that is true. It just means that when I stand over a putt, my first few thoughts are about pace and line and, finally, not about lagging it close so the putt will be conceded. For a lifetime yipper, that’s progress. 

But on Jan. 1, 2016, this belly putter – this lifeline – will be taken away. Not literally, of course. I could still use the magic wand in casual rounds with friends, most of whom have never been sticklers for USGA rules anyway, what with their foot wedges, generous drops and approximately 19 clubs in the bag. Money games would get a little dicier.

It also remains to be seen what tournament officials of the Red Solo Cup, GolfChannel.com’s annual battle royale, will decide in regards to anchoring. Adopting the ban in 2016 or pushing it back to ’24, as both the PGA Tour and PGA of America suggested, could significantly impact my value as a team member. 

This anchoring ban has focused on the play-for-pay ranks, the men and women competing for millions and leaving their imprint on the sport, and for good reason. But the discussion of whether to ban it or allow it for the pros has never mattered much to me. They’re all talented enough to make the switch, eventually, and with varying levels of success.

The rest of us aren’t so fortunate. A switch back to the short stick guarantees three things: more misses from inside 3 feet; constant tinkering with stances and grips and putters; and less enjoyment playing a difficult game that has never been more expensive or taken longer. 

“One of the great things about golf is that everybody plays under the same set of rules,” the USGA proudly stated last year. 

Because, apparently, that is what we really want as amateurs. To know that we’re playing under the same set of rules as pros who couldn’t putt this poorly on purpose. What a glorious, and ridiculous, game.

Here, your questions for this week’s #AskLav mailbag:

The guess here is that anchoring also will be banned for the over-50 set, for a few reasons. The Champions Tour already struggles with credibility ' some contend the courses are set up too easy, or that the players shouldnt be allowed to ride carts, or that theyre all hopped up on pain relievers. The long putter, fairly or not, has always been viewed as a crutch. And the Champions circuit, fairly or not, is an extension of the PGA Tour. Anchoring cant be banned for everyone else in the world but the aging warriors ' even at the expense of two of the tours most popular players, Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer.

Of the myriad ways to qualify for the years first major, being a 2013 European Tour winner is not one of them.

Spieth could qualify on his own, though he needs to crack the top 70 on the PGA points list by the end of the Canadian Open. (Hes currently 77th.) Based on the season the 19-year-old phenom has had in 2013, however ' from beginning the year with no status anywhere to earning more than $1 million and posting five top 10s (and counting) ' the PGA would be wise to offer the kid his second major start as a pro. No drawback to that.

Els was a solid pick at the Open even before he won a few weeks ago in Germany; now hes one of the top five favorites. Same with Westy, whose ball-striking should separate him in the wind chamber that is Muirfield. Not expecting much from Poults, who doesnt have a top 10 since the Match Play in February. If youre looking for another international player, take Charl Schwartzel.

That, too, struck me as curious when the statement first came out. But if the Tour were to implement the rule early ' for instance, in the fall of 2015, before the start of the new season ' then it would open itself up to possible litigation by playing under two sets of rules, not just the rules set forth by the USGA with the Jan. 1 date.

Um, Ive never played golf with Tiger on a Sunday ' or any day, for that matter ' so lets just assume its a tournament red. But remember, as weve seen this year during his weather-interrupted wins at Torrey Pines and Bay Hill, he wears a Final-Round Red, not just Sunday Red.

Nope. Despite what its statement may imply, this was a surprise to no one, especially the Tour. Its simply posturing by Camp Ponte Vedra.

(Mind blown.) Hard-hitting questions such as these make me wonder why youre only a beat writer for MLB.com

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry