Should wins with anchored putters get an asterisk?

By Jason SobelNovember 29, 2012, 8:47 pm

The U.S. Golf Association and R&A have proposed a ban on anchored strokes, effective Jan. 1, 2016. The stroke, most notably made with the putter, will be legal until that time. But should victories with an anchored putter attained between now and then – and even prior – come with an asterisk? writers weigh in.



Asterisks are useful grammatical tools when conveying messages such “*Void where prohibited by law,” or “*Any use of this article without’s express written consent is strictly prohibited.”

It can work for athletic achievements, too. You want to place an asterisk next to Barry Bonds’ home run record or any number of tainted collegiate national championship titles? Go right ahead.

There’s no place for it in golf, though – at least, none that I’ve seen yet. People wanted to put one next to Bob Goalby’s 1968 Masters victory when Roberto De Vicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard, but Goalby won by the rules of the game. They wanted asterisks next to each of Padraig Harrington’s major wins in 2008 because Tiger Woods was injured, but he won 'em, fair and square.

And now we’re talking about placing an asterisk next to guys who win with an anchored putter prior to it being deemed illegal? Maybe some people just don’t know their punctuation. There’s no way we should think of a victory by legal means as anything other than a victory. Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson will wield anchored putters at this week’s World Challenge – and neither should have to apologize for it or feel ashamed about it.

Both of 'em have a pretty good chance of winning this event, too. If they do? Well, they could do a lot worse than telling people afterward: “Kiss my asterisk.”



The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient may not make this proposed rule banning anchored putters official until 2016, but the new rule defines such strokes as improper, a determination that casts a shadow over every stroke made that way, regardless if it’s technically still legal or not. There’s a timelessness to the nature of this ruling.

If the stroke is deemed to be “improper” by golf’s governing body in 2016, it will feel “improper” tomorrow to a player who gets beat by a guy who wins with an anchored putter.

Tiger Woods is among many players who think it’s wrong to anchor a putter. Now, regardless of when the rule kicks in, they’re justified believing that their suspicions have been confirmed. Really, what's legal and what's proper are now two different questions.

There won't actually be an asterisk in the record books, but, fair or not, even the major championship victories of Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els over the last 15 months come with questions that serve as unspoken asterisks: Would they have won without anchoring their putters? Would they have won with 'proper' strokes? Would they have beaten all the players who didn’t anchor if the playing field were level? Now, you can argue the playing field was level, that any player could have anchored a putter in those majors, but if it truly is deemed an “improper stroke,” there was no level field to play upon, just a corrupted one.



Here’s a history lesson: Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam in 1930.  It remains one of the most impressive – if not the most impressive – accomplishments in golf history. He used a concave-faced wedge to win those tournaments. A year later, the USGA decided to ban the club, believing it gave players an unfair advantage.

So how do we refer to that feat now? We don’t say, Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam in 1930, but, oh, well, you know, he did use a club that was later outlawed by the governing bodies and, so, well, I guess that diminishes the accomplishment.

Of course not.

These players are using a type of stroke that, right now, is within the rules of the game. They aren’t cheaters. They don’t deserve an asterisk. And they have until Jan. 1, 2016 – or, hopefully, a bit sooner, so this debate doesn’t drag on for three more years – and then they must conform.

Until then, stop the bellyaching.



Perhaps more than any other sport, golf’s history is tied to equipment: hickory shafts, persimmon woods, balata balls. Despite that fact, the historical lines tend to blur between one era and the next. While we currently stand at a stark dividing point, with time the delineation between B.B. and A.B. (Before Ban and After Ban) will become less pronounced, and players who win during the upcoming interregnum should be viewed as nothing short of deserving.

Flip the situation on its head and assume the governing bodies put a temporary, three-year lift on rules against square grooves, or maximum club lengths, or drivers with spring-like effect. Wouldn’t many players use the newly amended Rules of Golf to their advantage, even if it meant playing with equipment that would knowingly be perceived as illegal years down the road? I believe they would, and likely with little hesitation if they felt their games would benefit.

The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient have drawn a line in the sand – and that line is still years away. Until that point, golfers are charged with playing as well as they can within the confines of the current Rules. Whether or not that includes anchoring their putter may remain a talking point, but with time that point of emphasis will fade, and rightfully so. At the end of the day, as has been the case for decades, golf fans will remember the names on the trophies far more than they will recall the clubs with which those trophies were won.



Word around PGA West, site of this week’s final stage of Q-School, was that the PGA Tour may act unilaterally to ban the act of anchoring, and by definition long putters, before the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

This is not Camp Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., storming the moral high ground to right a wrong, this is about perception. Although it may offend the senses, the truth is if the ban is approved next spring a victory by a long-putter using player before the January 2016 enactment would be tainted and for Tour officials that is just not acceptable.

In many ways accomplishments over the next three seasons, and 12 majors, would be viewed similarly to how history remembers the “juiced ball” era in baseball.

There are no official asterisks on Barry Bonds’ prolific accomplishments, but to the average fan there is a metaphorical cloud that will never be lifted.

Comparing the use of belly putters to PEDs is extreme, but the questions are no less valid. It may not be fair, but “anchored victories” before the 2016 transition will come complete with an asterisk, and that just won’t do.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.