No right or wrong answer to anchoring debate

By Jason SobelMay 21, 2013, 8:05 pm

The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements.”

FORT WORTH, Texas – The preceding comment on the game’s biggest hot-button issue didn’t come from the mind of USGA executive director Mike Davis, nor was it spoken by fellow head honchos Glen Nager or Mark Newell. It wasn’t part of R&A chief executive Peter Dawson’s brazen directive. In fact, it had nothing to do with Tuesday’s landmark decision to ban the anchored stroke beginning on Jan. 1, 2016.

They are the words of Ernest Hemingway.

With exactly 955 days remaining for us to collectively jab the butt ends of putters into our belly buttons and sternums, it is important to understand that this issue, in some shape or form, has subsisted within the game’s inner circles for years and its outer circles for just as long, with Hemingway offering dialogue on the matter as an analogy to grammar in a letter published in 1925. (His initial comparison: “My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible.”)

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The debate has spanned decades, from Ernest the author to Ernie the anchorer. It was Els who once famously stated, “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of ‘em.” In the wake of Rule 14-1b being implemented into the Rules of Golf, reactions have ranged across the spectrum, with hardly a fence-rider among us. The problem – or perhaps more to the point, the promotion – is that like all equitable debates, there are valid points to be made on all sides of the issue.

Davis argued Tuesday that the governing bodies are simply righting a long-standing wrong. “This was about protecting the fundamentals of what we believe the game has always been and that we do believe this has been a divisive issue that needed to be cleared up.”

Brian Harman employs an anchored putter and doesn’t see why a non-professional’s opinion should adversely affect his career. “It bothers me that guys that have no stake in the game decide how guys are going to make a living doing. I don’t see it (using an anchored stroke) being a huge deal. We have no say in the way that they make those rules. I don’t see how that’s fair.”

Tom Lehman similarly agrees and wonders whether the ruling will impact the USGA and R&A’s global power. “I think the USGA and R&A are setting themselves up for a situation where people don’t follow their lead, which will diminish their credibility as ruling bodies, and I think there’s a potential problem with that.”

Brendan Steele recently switched from anchoring to gripping the putter against his forearm, which will remain legal in 2016 and beyond, but understands the benefit of doing what’s best for him professionally. “I’m going to putt however I can best get the ball into the hole this week and then deal with it moving forward. I’m using the [Matt] Kuchar-style because I feel like it’s the best chance for me to hole putts this week.”

Individually, each argument reeks of common sense – even those which contradict each other. And therein lies the greatest dilemma: There is no right or wrong here.

Unlike drug testing on the game’s elite levels (“All for it,” we say) or slow play (“Let’s erase it,” we contest) or participation (“Need to fix it,” we cry), there is no universal recommendation for the anchoring rule.

Personally, I’d be willing to take part in a Bad News Bears-like chanting process outside the USGA’s Far Hills, N.J., headquarters. “Let them play! Let them play!” But when I listen to Davis or Dawson or a majority of PGA Tour professionals who are in favor of anchoring going belly up in a few years, it’s not as if I view them with disdain or derision. The truth is, I can fully understand their point.

Compounding the matter is the fact that neither answer has been – or will ever be – proven right or wrong. Just as an anchoring ban supporter will quickly point out that four of the last six major championships were won by players placing the end of the putter against their bodies, a contrarian will counter by allowing that the first 418 majors in the game’s history had exactly zero anchoring winners.

What we’re left with is an issue which has two logical points of view and no correct answer. It has become golf’s ultimate enigma, a Rubik’s Cube incapable of being solved. Even so, those who govern and preserve the game declared they uncovered this enigma, accepting their own proposal to the delight and doubt of many.

From Ernest to Ernie, it’s a story which has influenced the game for decades. Trying to solve this problem will only serve to keep it at the forefront.

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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.

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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.”

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On a wild Wednesday, DJ, Rory, Phil saved by the pool

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:39 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Call it black Wednesday, but then the one-and-done aspect of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was dulled three years ago with the introduction of round-robin play that assures every player at least three matches in pool play.

Otherwise Wednesday at Austin Country Club would go down as one of the championship’s darkest hours for the top of the dance card. In order, world No. 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson dropped his Day 1 match, 3 and 1, to world No. 56 Bernd Wiesberger; last week’s winner Rory McIlroy lost to PGA Tour rookie Peter Uihlein, 2 and 1, and Phil Mickelson, the winner of the last WGC in Mexico, dropped a 3-and-2 decision to Charles Howell III.

All told, 11 lower-seeded players pulled off “upsets” on Wednesday, although it’s widely held that the Match Play is more prone to these types of underdog performances than the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

But if it wasn’t March Madness, it was at the least March Mayhem, particularly for those who shuffled around Austin Country Club in a state of mild confusion.

Although there were plenty of matches that went according to plan – with top-seeded players Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Sergio Garcia all winning – it was still a tough day for chalk with three of the top 10 players in the world ranking either losing or halving (world No. 3 Jon Rahm halved his duel with Keegan Bradley) their matches.

At least McIlroy made things interesting after finding himself 5 down through 13 holes. The Northern Irishman played his last six holes in 5 under par to push the match to the 17th hole, but Uihlein closed out the bout with a par.

“If he birdies seven straight on you, hats off to him. It is what it is,” Uihlein said of McIlroy’s late surge. “I felt like if I just kind of kept giving myself a chance, I didn't want to give him any holes. He made me earn it, so hats off to it.”

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Johnson couldn’t say the same thing.

After not trailing in any match on his way to victory at last year’s Match Play, Johnson hit a ball in the water, two out of bounds (on the same hole, no less) and began to fade when he made a double bogey-5 at the 11th hole. Although scoring is always skewed at the Match Play because of conceded putts, Johnson was listed at 9 over through 17 holes before his day came to a merciful end.

“We both didn't have a great day. I think we only made three birdies between us, which is not a lot out here,” Wiesberger said. “Obviously it wasn't his best day. It wasn't the best of my days. I think we both have to do a little bit of work this afternoon.”

Although not as scrappy as Johnson’s round, Mickelson has also seen better days. Lefty made just a single birdie and played 17 holes in even par to lose just his second match in pool play.

But then this event hasn’t exactly been kind to Lefty, who has advanced to the weekend just twice in 13 starts.

“I was fortunate today, obviously, to get past him,” said Howell, who is the second-lowest seeded player to advance out of pool play when he did it in 2017 as the 61st player in the field. “But with this pod play the way it goes now, you never know. You've got to keep playing good. Last WGC we had, he won. So he's never out of it.”

That will be the solace those high-profile players who find themselves on the wrong side of the round-robin ledger now cling to. There is a path back.

Since pool play began, just four players have lost their Day 1 matches and went on to win their group. One of those players is Johnson, who lost to Robert Streb on Wednesday in 2016 but still advanced to the quarterfinals.

But if that helps ease the sting for those who now embrace the Match Play mulligan, it did little to quiet the crowds on what turned out to be a wild Wednesday.