Clark: If it were cheating, I wouldn't anchor putter

By Doug FergusonMarch 6, 2013, 11:34 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Tim Clark stated his case against the proposed ban on anchored strokes Wednesday night, saying he was frustrated by the lack of evidence from golf's governing bodies that using a long putter provides an advantage.

Clark has used a long putter he anchors to his chest since he was in college. He became a key figure in the debate for his elegant speech at a PGA Tour meeting that helped shape the opinion of several players. A month later, commissioner Tim Finchem said the PGA Tour was not in favor of the proposed rule.

''What we have here is a different method of putting,'' Clark said. ''It's not wrong. It's not against the values of the game. It's still a stroke. People who come out and say, 'It's not a stroke, you don't get nervous,' I can't believe that. I've been using it for 15 years. I get nervous. I miss putts under pressure. Putting essentially will always come down to 99 percent brain and mindset and confidence.

''If I felt I was cheating, I wouldn't be using it.''

Clark has remained quiet on the debate since players met Jan. 22 at Torrey Pines with U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis.

The USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club proposed the ban on Nov. 28, and then provided a 90-day comment period because it was such a polarizing issue. Of the major golf organizations around the world, the PGA Tour and PGA of America are the only groups who have spoken out against the ban, which would not take effect until 2016.

The governing bodies felt an anchored stroke took too much skill out of the game. Its goal was to define the golf stroke as the club moving freely through the entire swing. They conceded in November there was no empirical data, only a recent spike in more players using long putters.

Clark, whose five wins worldwide includes The Players Championship in 2010, flew to Torrey Pines for the meeting even though he wasn't in the tournament.

''We've taken it upon ourselves to find a better method and a better way to putt for us, and we've found that,'' Clark said. ''It shouldn't be illegal. It's just a different way to putt.

''How can anything be an advantage that everyone can use and everyone can try?''

He said his biggest complaint was that anchored putting has been around for some 40 years and the governing bodies didn't say anything about them until three of the last five major champions won with a belly putter. He recalled Davis saying in April 2011 - four months before Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship with a belly putter – that the USGA did not see anchored putting ''as something that is really detrimental to the game.''

Adam Scott, who began using a long putter two years ago and twice came close to winning majors, joined Clark for a meeting with a small group of reporters. He said the USGA and R&A have not considered the hours of practice that goes into using such a stroke.

''Now we're making rules for the betterment of the game based on zero evidence? Incredible,'' Scott said.

''What did they think when they allowed it?'' the Australian added. ''You're dealing with professional athletes who are competitive, who want to find better ways. ... What do they think when they've got super talented golfers putting in thousands of hours of practice with a long putter, short putter, sand wedge, whatever? It was just a matter of time. They're going to get good.''

Clark was an All-American at North Carolina State using a conventional putter. He said he changed halfway through college because of a congenital problem with his arms in which he can't supinate his wrists. He said it caused discomfort the way he had to hold the short putter close to his body, and with some trepidation, practiced for two months with a long putter before using it in competition.

The USGA and R&A are expected to decide in the spring whether to adopt the proposed rule against anchoring. While Finchem said he was opposed to the ban, he did not say whether the PGA Tour would go against the governing bodies.

Clark remains optimistic that the rule will not be adopted. Scott is hopeful the USGA and R&A are reviewing comments by Finchem and the PGA of America with an open mind.

''We've got two bodies representing professional golfers that stand for something in the game, and that should be looked at carefully,'' Scott said. ''I sincerely hope that the R&A and the USGA just don't go back in this review period with a closed mind and dust it off. They've already made their mind up, and I think that's foolish of them. I think I'd be taking it seriously.

''We try and do all the right things ... because we are the image for the game of golf,'' he said. ''We are the ones who are seen on the TV, and we're the ones at the U.S. Open and The Open Championship, as well. So I think this process shouldn't just be dismissed quickly. I think they should be getting together and putting their heads together. We've got a great game, and we should be trying to preserve that and not having this be something that brings golf down.''

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Stricker leads in hometown event; Daly three back

By Associated PressJune 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

MADISON, Wis. – Steve Stricker made himself at home at the top of the leaderboard on a rainy and breezy Friday at the American Family Insurance Championship.

The hometown star and tournament host shot an 8-under 64 at University Ridge to take a one-stroke lead over 63-year-old Brad Bryant in the PGA Tour Champions event. Stricker birdied five of the first eight holes, bogeyed the par-5 ninth, and birdied Nos. 11, 12, 13 and 16.

''The wind was out of the northeast, which is a wind that we don't see very much of this time of year,'' Stricker said. ''So there were some holes to start with that played pretty tough and I got through those holes in good shape. Then just kept giving myself a few opportunities. A little hiccup on No. 9, but other than that it was a good round today.''

Because of the wet conditions, the players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways.

''It's the same for everybody,'' Stricker said. ''It's a little wet out there at times. I think the mowers even had a hard time getting into some of the spots because of the softness, but not that big a deal. The course is in great shape. It's the best it's been in three years we've been here. It won't be a problem if we have to play it down. We did get some mud balls today here and there, so it was good to play it in hand, but I could see with the forecast looking good that we might play it down.''

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John Daly, Colin Montgomerie and Steve Flesch shot 67.

Splitting time between the PGA Tour and the 50-and-over circuit, the 51-year-old Stricker had his 30th consecutive Champions round under par, the fourth-longest streak in tour history.

Stricker won in Arizona and Mississippi in consecutive starts in May for his first senior victories. The 12-time PGA Tour winner played the big tour the last two weeks, tying for 18th in Memphis and tying for 20th in the U.S. Open.

''It is a little bit different, but it's still golf,'' Stricker said. ''Get it in the fairway and then get it on the green, give yourself an opportunity, and did I that today. I took one shot at a time. For the most part I never got too far ahead of myself.''

Fellow Madison player Jerry Kelly and Illinois coach Mike Small, Stricker's teammate with the Illini, were at 68 with Bernhard Langer, Scott Verplank, Jeff Sluman, Glen Day, Billy Mayfair, Doug Garwood, Jerry Smith and Rocco Mediate.

Bryant had seven birdies in a bogey-free round.

''I had golfing success today - I started and finished with the same ball,'' Bryant said. ''It's the truth, so that was good. I'm a little bit surprised at the moment. I haven't played all that much golf and I've worked pretty hard on my golf swing, and my wife has me on this fancy diet where I've lost some weight. I don't know, things just kind of happened today.''

He made his only other tour start this year in February.

''I'm a retired person,'' Bryant said. ''I mean, c'mon. I go home, I get up in the morning, I go to McDonald's and then I hit golf balls for exercise and then I have lunch and then I go fishing and then I go to the couch.''

Defending champion Fred Couples had a 69. Stricker's brother-in-law, Mario Tiziani, caddied for Couples.

''My eyes aren't that good and these greens are very tough, so he read every putt,'' Couples said ''He's caddied for Steve for several events and he's a very good player. It was good.''

Daly returned from a knee injury that sidelined him for three events.

''For me a cart really helps not having to walk so much,'' Daly said. ''I'm still waiting for the steroid shot to kick in.''

Stricker played alongside Vijay Singh and Davis Love III. Singh shot 81, and Love 72.

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Aphibarnrat keeps promise to M. Jutanugarn

By Randall MellJune 22, 2018, 9:25 pm

Moriya Jutanugarn was inspired by a special fan Friday who kept a promise to her.

She will be looking to use that boost to make this a memorable new chapter in the Jutanugarn “Sisters Act” story.

Three weeks after Ariya won the U.S. Women’s Open for her second victory in 2018, Mo is in early position in Rogers, Ark., to join her sister as the tour’s only two-time winners this year.

Mo put up a 7-under-par 64 to get into early contention at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She was tied for the lead among the morning wave with Aditi Ashok, who is looking to inspire the entire nation of India by winning a first LPGA title for her homeland. Lizette Salas and Mirim Lee also shot 64s in the early wave.

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Moriya got in contention with PGA Tour pro Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the gallery following her. A fellow Thai, Aphibarnrat promised Mo he would come watch her if she won an LPGA title. She broke through for her first victory in April at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open, and Aphribarnrat lived up to his promise showing up this week.

“He's like my brother, and it’s very nice to see him,” Moriya said. “Really happy for him, as well, because he is having a very good year this year.”

At the Masters, Ariya caddied for Aphibarnrat during the Par 3 Contest.

Aphibarnrat said he is a big fan of the Thai sisters and also planned to watch Ariya in the afternoon.

“They inspire me,” Aphibarnrat told LPGA media official Christina Lance after the round.

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Two-time champ Bubba fires 63 at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 7:20 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Amid a resurgent season that has already included a pair of wins, it only makes sense that Bubba Watson is back in contention at the Travelers Championship.

TPC River Highlands has been one of Watson’s favorite haunts over the years; it’s a layout where the southpaw’s creative approach is often rewarded. This is where he burst into tears after earning his first PGA Tour victory in 2010, and this is where he beat Paul Casey in a playoff to again lift the trophy in 2015.

He’ll once again have a late weekend tee time after firing a 7-under 63 during the second round, tying the low score of the week and moving to within three shots of Brian Harman’s 10-under total.

“Little bit less wind, little more confidence on the ball-striking, and I made putts,” Watson said. “The key is making putts. When you start making putts, that’s where you’re going to score a decent number.”

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Watson was well down the standings after opening with an even-par 70, a round that included three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the back nine to negate progress he had made earlier in the day. But he ran into no such struggles the second time around, adding six birdies to an eagle on the par-5 13th hole when he hit his approach shot from 229 yards to within 18 inches of the hole.

The difference, according to Watson, was between the ears.

“Yesterday I was just thinking about some negative stuff instead of focusing on my target and focusing on the shot at hand,” Watson said. “I was focusing on hitting to the bunker, or focusing on, ‘Water is over here, so hit it over here.’ Just things like that, just things that you can’t do around the golf course.”

Watson was also a runner-up in 2012 here in addition to his two wins, and he has racked up nearly $3.5 million in earnings in 11 prior appearances. Once again thinking the right thoughts on one of his favorite tracks, he’s potentially 36 holes away from his third win since February.

“Obviously around here I feel pretty comfortable,” Watson said. “I can hit some shots around here, and I’ve made it work throughout some of the years.”

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Only putting is holding McIlroy back

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 6:48 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Through two rounds of the Travelers Championship, the tee shots are towering and the approaches are accurate for Rory McIlroy. Now he just needs the putter to heat up.

McIlroy started to show signs of life during the second round last week at Shinnecock Hills before missing the cut, and after putting in some extra work honing his swing over the weekend, his tee-to-green game is worth boasting about at the halfway point at TPC River Highlands.

McIlroy has missed only five greens in regulation through two rounds, barely breaking a sweat en route to rounds of 64 and 69 that left him at 7 under. He’s within striking distance heading into the weekend, three shots behind Brian Harman, but might be topping the standings with a more cooperative putter.

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“I felt like I left a few out there,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I had a lot of good putts that just didn’t go in. I started them on line, did everything I needed to do, and it’s just one of those days where they were sliding by the edges.”

McIlroy took 32 putts to complete his second round, including a three-putt on No. 7 for his only bogey of the day and another three-putt on No. 13 that turned an eagle opportunity into a par. Already with a win under his belt this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he knocked in putts from all directions during a final-round 64, McIlroy feels confident that he might be only a few rolls away from having another shot to contend in his second career trip to the Hartford-area stop.

“I think if I can put the ball in the fairway and hit my irons as good as I have been over the first couple of days, I’ll give myself a lot of chances for birdies,” McIlroy said. “It’s just about converting them and taking the opportunities when they present themselves.”