Governing bodies propose ban on anchored putting

By Ryan LavnerNovember 28, 2012, 1:30 pm

Anchors away.

Citing a “tremendous spike in usage” and “growing advocacy” among pros and instructors, golf’s governing bodies announced Wednesday that they have proposed a ban on anchored putting that would become effective January 2016.

“We’re not doing this because we said (anchoring) is a great advantage,” U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis told Golf Channel. “It may be advantageous for some, but this is fundamentally about what we think is the right thing for the game.

“Rules changes are about the future of the game, and we really do fundamentally think that defining a stroke is the right thing for the future.”

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Rule 14-1b is expected to be finalized this spring, after a 90-day window that will allow industry insiders to address any lingering concerns. But the new rule won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2016, when the next edition of the Rules of Golf is published.


USGA and R&A infographic: What's legal and illegal

Mell: USGA and R&A asleep at the wheel


“We’re not going into a 90-day comment period lightly,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said. “We want to listen to what people have to say, and if something new comes up, we will certainly consider it.

“But I would stress this is not a popularity contest, not an election. As the governing body we are doing what we think is best for the game of golf, and this is our responsibility.”

The unprecedented decision came as little surprise, after it was reported last month that Davis held a presentation at The McGladrey Classic to explain how a ban would be implemented and to ask players for their support. In a statement, the PGA Tour said Wednesday that it would review the rule change at the next annual player meeting, scheduled for Jan. 22 in San Diego, and it is expected to be reviewed by the Policy Board in March.

The proposed rule states that during a stroke, a player cannot anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.” Among the prohibited strokes: a belly putter anchored against the stomach; anchored long putter to the sternum; the end of the club anchored against the chin; and an anchor point created by the forearm.

Worth noting: A stroke made with the putter resting against the forearm – a method used by Matt Kuchar – was deemed to be a form of grip, not anchoring, which is permitted by the USGA.

It is also important to note that the ban outlaws anchoring, not the putters themselves. So a player would still be able to use a long putter, so long as the butt of the handle is not affixed to a part of the body (chin, sternum, stomach, etc.).

This decision affects all levels of golf – from the recreational level to the professionals – as the governing bodies have decided against bifurcation, or separate rules for touring pros and amateurs.

“One of the great things about golf is that everybody plays under the same set of rules,” Davis said. “It really gives structure to the game. For those people who think we should bifurcate, I’m telling you, you haven’t thought through the ramifications. Once you open Pandora’s box, it will forever change the game. We are steadfast on this one. People who want to bifurcate don’t understand what they’re asking.”

Long putters have been around for decades, of course, but Davis said the percentage of players who have used the clubs have increased from about 2-4 percent in the 1980s and ’90s, to 6 percent from 2006-’10, to about 15 percent this season.

But the controversial issue has taken on heightened importance after three of the past five major winners won while using an anchored putter. Most recently, 14-year-old Tianlang Guan won the Asian Amateur (and thereby earned an invitation to The Masters) while wielding a belly putter, a club which he began using only six months prior, Dawson said.

Asked if this was merely a reaction to those recent successes, Dawson said emphatically, “This is not a major-championship issue. This has been about the upsurge in general usage.”

Added Davis, “We are looking to the future of the game and saying that we don’t think golf should be played this way.”

In 1991, Rocco Mediate became the first player to win a PGA Tour event with a long putter, and the club quickly gained popularity among the over-50 set on the Champions Tour. At that time, the long putter was viewed as a sign of weakness, an aid for players with back problems or putting woes.

No longer.

The narrative has shifted, the battle lines on this issue clearly drawn.

Those who support a ban – which includes Tiger Woods, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer, among others – essentially claim that pressing the butt of the putter against the stomach, chin or sternum provides an unfair advantage because it reduces pressure and nerves while making a stroke. Webb Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open, rebuffed that notion, saying Tuesday, “Well, I was shaking in my boots on that last putt.”

Dawson, however, said that an anchored stroke “takes one of the frailties out of the stroke that is an inherent part of the game.”

Those against a ban point to the fact that none of the top 20 putters on the 2012 PGA Tour used an anchored putter, according to the Tour’s strokes gained-putting statistic. And they also contend that not only is the technique within the rules of the game – and has been for decades – it caused an uproar only after Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA), Simpson (’12 U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (’12 British) each won major championships while using a belly putter. There has been some suggestion that their accomplishments will now be viewed with a mythical asterisk.

“Absolutely not,” Dawson said. “They won fair and square with the rules that existed at the time.”

Does the debate end here? Hardly.

Players such as Carl Pettersson, Tim Clark and Simpson have each used the long putter since college. Anticipating this decision, however, Simpson revealed that he has already begun practicing with the conventional putter, and will use that club in tournament play “as soon as I feel ready.”

Though it had been previously reported that Bradley was prepared to challenge a potential ban, perhaps to the point of legal action, the 26-year-old squashed all notions Tuesday at the World Challenge. Yes, he will continue to use the belly putter until the ban is implemented, but added, “I have total respect for Mike Davis and the USGA, and they are doing what they think is best for the game, and I respect that.”

Said Davis: “We legitimately believe it’s the right thing to do for the game of golf long-term. We know short-term there is going to be some angst over this. We accept that. We don’t like it either. But we want to, once and for all, put this controversial ruling to bed.”

Day finishes strong, leads Aussie Open by one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 6:12 am

Jason Day birdied three of his final five holes to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand in Sydney:

Leaderboard: Day (-10), Lucas Herbert (-9), Jonas Blixt (-7), Matt Jones (-7), Cameron Smith (-6), Rhein Gibson (-5), Anthony Quayle (-5)

What it means: Day has a great shot at his first victory – in his final start – in 2017. It’s been a frustrating campaign for Day, who has dropped to 12th in the Official World Golf Ranking. A win this week, in his native Open, would be a huge boost as he embarks on the 2018 season.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: Day’s 2-under 69 wasn’t the lowest of the day, but it was the most important. Day parred his first 13 holes before birdies on Nos. 14 and 15. He bogeyed the 17th, but finished with a birdie at the par-5 18th for the outright lead.

Best of the rest: Blixt’s 66 put him in position to win. Meanwhile, Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya shot the low round of the day, a 6-under 65, to reach 4 under for the tournament.

Biggest disappointment: No one really blew it on Saturday, but Jordan Spieth was unable to make a move. His 1-under 70 has him eight shots off the lead. Herbert managed an even-par 71 but he had a two-stroke lead until an errant tee shot at the par-3 11th. Speaking of which …

Shot of the day: Not every Shot of the Day is a great shot. Herbert made a long birdie putt on the eighth and was two clear of the field through 10 holes. But he hit his tee shot long at the 11th and was not able to find it. He had to re-tee, made double bogey and lost his advantage. He’s now chasing a major champion in the final round.

Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 4:30 am

Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.

Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

“I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.

Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.

“Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.

Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.

“Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.

 

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.