Wrapping up year of big-time changes in golf

By Doug FergusonDecember 11, 2012, 9:53 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Let's see if we get this straight.

In a decision just about everyone saw coming, golf's ruling bodies declared their intentions to outlaw putting strokes that are anchored to the body, which Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els used in winning three of the last five major championships.

It would not become a new rule for three years.

A few days earlier, the R&A dropped the biggest post-Thanksgiving surprise since that Florida Highway Patrol report on a single-car accident involving Tiger Woods. It proposed alterations to half the holes on the Old Course at St. Andrews, including the front part of the green near the famous Road Hole bunker.

Work began in three days.

No matter your opinion on either subject, there is little disputing that 2012 was filled with significant changes. Perhaps it was only fitting that the PGA of America decided not to let the year end without picking a new Ryder Cup captain. It announced on Tuesday that there would be an announcement Thursday on NBC's ''Today'' show.

So what to expect for 2013?

The PGA Tour will end one season in September and start a new season in October.

The Web.com Tour will get more attention than ever with four tournaments in the fall that, in effect, replace Q-School.

The six rounds of Q-School that Erik Compton not-so-affectionately referred to as ''hell week'' will be missing this familiar phrase: ''If he makes this putt, he's on the PGA Tour.'' That's because the new version of Q-School only awards a ticket to the minor leagues.

Instead of finishing the calendar year outside the Magic Kingdom, players will be going to Mexico. Adios, Disney.

Two of the biggest changes – the wraparound season and Q-School – were only a matter of time.

The demise of Q-School was brought on by the creation in 2007 of the FedEx Cup, and while players might not take time to understand the points, they understand four playoff events worth a total of $67 million in prize money and bonuses. Trouble is, that reduced the tournaments after the FedEx Cup to something called the ''Fall Series,'' with smaller purses, watered-down fields and minimal world ranking points.

The only way to keep those sponsors happy was to treat them like regular PGA Tour events. The only way to treat them like regular events was to give them FedEx Cup points. And they couldn't give FedEx Cup points without making them part of the regular schedule, thus the wraparound season.

Start in October, end in September. Win/lose the Presidents Cup/Ryder Cup. Repeat process.

And with the new season starting so soon, there was no time to award Tour cards at Q-School. That's a big reason the Tour went to the four-tournament series known as ''The Finals,'' to be played roughly the same time as the FedEx Cup playoffs.

The greater change will be anchored strokes, and the Tour would do well to take a page from the Old Course and get started immediately.

The rule still has go to through a 90-day comment period before the U.S. Golf Association and R&A approved it, and because the Rules of Golf only change every four years, it would not be effective until the next book comes out in 2016.

There was talk that the Tour could create its own rule and allow the putting stroke. What's more likely to happen is for the PGA Tour to create its own rule that bans the anchored stroke well before 2016 – like the start of the 2014 season, which will be in October of 2013.

It puts players like Bradley in a sticky spot. While it's perfectly legal to anchor the club now, everyone knows the end of the belly putter is near. It was difficult not to look at Bradley and Simpson differently after the proposed ban was announced, where before no one would have noticed and even few would have cared. TV can't ignore it, either, and is that really what the Tour wants to hear from the booth for the next three years?

Bradley says a fan called him a cheater during the third round of the World Challenge at Sherwood, and the USGA rushed out a statement that condemned the comment as ''deplorable.'' It's surprising the USGA has waited this long to take on the fan who screams, ''Get in the hole'' when players tee off on a par 5 by reminding us there is no evidence of anyone reaching the green with a 575-yard tee shot.

Can someone like Bradley expect more of the same? Possibly. Just don't get the idea such comments will cause an unfair advantage.Bradley thrives on this stuff.

He was asked after the round if the debate could actually help him because he was running out of chips to put on his shoulder.

''Absolutely,'' he said. ''You hear guys like Michael Jordan talk about how he liked to play on the road. The guy called me a cheater on the last hole – that gets me motivated. I'm never running out of stuff to motivate me because I always feel like I need to get better. I never go into a tournament thinking I'm playing so good that I'm going to win. Every single tournament I've won, I had a borderline meltdown on Wednesday. That's what keeps me going. It's just how I am.''

Don't get the idea Bradley lacks confidence. He thinks he can win every week. It just doesn't hurt to find motivation wherever he can, even from the gallery.

''I think it's one of my best qualities,'' he said.

As for St. Andrews? No need to panic just yet. The British Open doesn't return there for three more years.

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Romo turns in even in PGA Tour debut

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 3:00 pm

After stumbling out of the gates, Tony Romo has found his footing in his PGA Tour debut.

Playing in the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship on a sponsor exemption, Romo shot an even-par 36 for his opening nine holes in the Dominican Republic. The former NFL quarterback bogeyed his first two holes, but steadied the ship with three birdies from Nos. 4-8 while playing alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

The early highlight of the round came at the par-4 fifth hole, where Romo drained a putt from across the green for his second straight birdie:

Romo has played as an amateur partner in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and has played individually in U.S. Open local qualifiers and mini-tour events as an amateur. But this marks his first attempt to gauge his game against the best players in the world who are not in Austin for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Romo, who plays to a plus-0.3 handicap, said earlier in the week that he expected some jitters once it came time to put a tee in the ground.

"You'll be nervous on Thursday on the first tee. Just going to be," Romo said. "I've got to get through the first three or four holes. If I can handle the nerves on the first three or four holes, I think that I'll settle in and hopefully just play the way I've been playing."

Click here to watch live first-round action on Golf Channel.

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Kim's missing clubs show up at sporting goods store

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 1:58 pm

More than a month after they were lost on an American Airlines flight, the clubs I.K. Kim used to win last year's Ricoh Women's British Open turned up on the sale rack of a California sporting goods store.

Kim's clubs became lost in late January when she flew from Miami to San Diego, with the airline suggesting she simply rent a new set. A few weeks later, Kim shot a "What's in the bag" television segment which according to a Golfweek report caught the eye of three good samaritans in the San Diego area.

The three men recognized Kim's clubs for sale at a local Play It Again Sports, with the major winner's tools listed at $60 each. The store even had Kim's tour bag, complete with her LPGA player badge. Kim filmed the reunion with her bag - containing wedges and a few hybrids, minus the head covers - at the Carlsbad police station:

Kim was back in southern California this week for the Kia Classic, where she'll begin play Thursday morning at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad.

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New dad Garcia removes shoes, wins match

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:48 am

AUSTIN, Texas – In one of the day’s most explosive matches, Sergio Garcia rolled in an 8-footer for birdie at the 18th hole to defeat Shubhankar Sharma, 1 up, at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

The duo halved just nine holes on Day 1 at Austin Country Club, with Garcia going from 2 up through four holes to 1 down with five holes to play.

But the Spaniard rallied with five birdies over his final eight holes and pushed his record to 20-17-1 in the Match Play. He also gave himself his best chance to advance out of pool play since the format began in 2015.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

The victory continued what has already been a memorable week for Garcia, whose wife, Angela, gave birth to the couple’s first child last Wednesday.

“I already feel like I’m a winner after what happened on Wednesday,” Garcia said. “Obviously, it's something that we're so, so happy and proud of and enjoying it as much as possible.”

The highlight of Garcia’s round on Wednesday came at the 12th hole when he took a drop on a cart path. After considering his options, he removed his shoes and hit his approach from 212 yards to 29 feet for a two-putt birdie to halve the hole.

“I have spikes. So if I don't take my shoes off, I'm going to slip. It's not the kind of shot that you want to slip,” Garcia said. “I had tried it a couple of times on practice swings and I was already slipping a little bit. So I thought I would just take my shoes off, try to get a little bit in front of the hole and it came out great.”