Players remain open-minded on proposed anchor ban

By Jason SobelFebruary 26, 2013, 10:55 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Boy, these PGA Tour players are an open-minded bunch.

I spent much of Tuesday asking many of them about anchored putting, which just happens to be the most polarizing issue in the game today.

You might think my questions would be countered with passionate responses. Raised voices. Adamant opinions. Finger pointing. Foot stomping.

You’d be wrong.

Instead, they were met with resounding tolerance. These players could go either way. Give or take. They’ve approached the matter without any preconceived notions.

Collectively, they are golf’s version of the independent party, choosing not to align themselves with any specific side based on previous personal preference.

That’s not a criticism. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Players should be commended for individually examining the issue and picking a side – or better yet, picking both.

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“I can see both sides to it,” Jason Dufner explained. “It doesn’t affect me because I don’t use one. Obviously I play against guys that use them, but I don’t see an overall trend where guys who are putting with them are just making every putt. There’s not a lot of evidence that supports it’s an unfair advantage.”

“I don’t care whether they keep it or ban it,” said Ricky Barnes. “I’m on the fence – 55 one way, 45 the other – but let’s keep playing off one set of rules.”

“I was originally indifferent,” Mark Wilson admitted. “I was like, I don’t care because I don’t putt that way. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it will drive people away from the game and we don’t want that to happen.”

The game is in a sticky situation these days. On Nov. 28, the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club jointly announced that they would propose a ban on anchored putting. Officials for the former organization sought a recommendation from the PGA Tour during a 90-day comment period. On Sunday, with that period soon coming to an end, commissioner Tim Finchem echoed the voices of the policy board and player advisory committee by announcing an opposition to the ban.

That announcement was due in no small part to this open-mindedness of the players. Many were swayed by an impassioned Tim Clark at last month’s player meeting. Others came to the conclusion through conclusive data or simply by speaking with peers.

“I think initially when they announced it, a lot of guys were like, ‘Yeah, I’m all for that; I use a short putter and they shouldn’t be allowed to use those,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “But I think the longer they’ve had discussions with friends and heard all the arguments from guys like Tim [Clark] and Carl [Pettersson] and Kevin Stadler and Webb [Simpson] and all that, they’ve perhaps gained a little sympathy for the other side of the argument.”

If nothing else, all of this news has forced the game’s elite-level professionals to think – think about whether anchoring is against the spirit of the rules, think about whether bifurcation is the proper route, think about the hypothetical ramifications of pitting a few of the game’s most powerful organizations against each other.

After all, if neither side ducks in this global game of chicken, there is a very real possibility that anchored putting could be allowed every week on the PGA Tour, but disallowed in at least two of the four major championships, if not more.

“Not that I totally agree with everything the USGA does, but I think they usually do a pretty good job,” Barnes said. “My theory is that if they do ban it, then I think we should follow suit. But if we don’t, then I don’t agree that the one week we do play the U.S. Open or the British Open that it’s banned. I think it will take away from the game, because I think some of those players who anchor their putter won’t play in those tournaments – and that’s the wrong thing for the game.”

“I don’t think there’s ever been a precedent where the Tour says, ‘We don’t support this,’” Dufner added. “But in my opinion, I don’t think we’re going to have an anchoring ban. I think it’s going to go away. In this case, the PGA Tour might be a little bit stronger than what the USGA and R&A are trying to do.”

Apparently you can get a pretty good view of things when you’re sitting high on the fence.

Maybe it’s a trickle-down effect. The game’s No. 1-ranked player, Rory McIlroy, spoke about the issue on Tuesday with equal parts candor and impartiality.

“I'm all for people enjoying the game and trying to make the game as easy as possible and bringing people to the game,” he said. “If that means that they should allow belly putters or anchored putters to make it easier for the general public, then you know, that's a good thing. But then they talk about bifurcation and whether you should have one set of rules for us and one set of rules for the amateurs; it's just a bit of a mess. It's just opened a can of worms.”

Worms can be a useful tool. They help catch fish; they aid gardens in growing. In this case, the can of worms has brought open-mindedness to the game’s top golfers that isn’t always so evident.

Most polarizing issues tend to tear opposite sides apart. This one seems to be bringing them together in a way, at least in the sense that everyone is collectively thinking about what is best for the game.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”