Politics played major role in Tour adopting ban

By Jason SobelJuly 1, 2013, 9:06 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – When the USGA and R&A first proposed an anchoring ban and asked other influencers within the game for an assessment during a lengthy comment period, the PGA Tour was amongst the most vocal, opposing the notion with passionate dissension.

On Monday, that very same PGA Tour announced that it plans to adopt the anchoring ban, which has gone from nominated proposal to Rule 14-1b, starting Jan. 1, 2016, in effect agreeing to a rule that it had previously opposed.

If this 180-degree reversal sounds like the ultimate contradiction, it should. After all, we’re just months removed from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem publicly denouncing the idea in multiple forums. Now he’s prepared to embrace it.

So what happened? Why did the PGA Tour flip the script on this plotline? How did its policy board so quickly change its collective mind on this issue?

Well, the truth is, it didn’t.

But to understand why and how, we need to look back to the 1960 presidential election.

That year’s emotionally charged campaign race pitted John F. Kennedy, a charismatic senator from Massachusetts, against incumbent vice president Richard M. Nixon in an election that garnered increased interest thanks in part to the first-ever televised debates. Among those captivated by the proceedings was a 13-year-old boy in Virginia named Timothy Finchem, who would later credit that presidential race with first getting him intrigued by politics.

His hobby soon became his passion, the political process consuming his formative years. Finchem would study political science at the University of Richmond, then get into the political arena even more during law school. He later ran a senate campaign in Virginia, which led to a job as deputy advisor to the office of economic affairs for the Jimmy Carter administration, coordinating economic initiatives within the White House.

Eventually, Finchem would leave politics to start practicing law. Even after becoming PGA Tour commissioner in 1994, though, he always relied on that political background to help navigate his way through potentially chaotic situations.


Anchored-stroke debate: Articles, videos and photos

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Official statement from the PGA Tour on anchor ban


Therein lies the connection between that long ago presidential election and the impending anchoring ban.

As with many issues that have arisen during his tenure, Finchem has viewed this one with the agenda of a politician. That notion may come saddled with a negative connotation, but it doesn’t need be.

The feeling inside PGA Tour circles is that the organization was always going to adopt the anchoring ban. Rather than simply state that from the beginning, though, Finchem looked at the ramifications of such an announcement with an eye toward his constituency.

Since the commissioner in effect works for – and certainly with – the membership, outwardly lauding the initial proposal would have garnered a backlash from the admittedly small minority of anchorers who felt that Finchem didn’t have their best interests at heart.

It may have been posturing, but initially opposing the proposal was Finchem’s way of saying to the likes of Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Adam Scott, “I’ve got your back on this one.” Rather than hang certain members of his organization out to dry, the commissioner publicly voiced his support for their cause.

Now that the policy board has approved Rule 14-1b, any potential backlash from the anchoring group is pacified due to Finchem’s original stance. None can maintain he didn’t support them because the truth is – at least publicly – he did.

If that sounds like a shrewd political move, it doesn’t end there.

Finchem counts himself among the many titans of the golf industry who believe that bifurcation – a separate set of rules for professionals and amateurs – has no place in the game. These traditionalists will contend that one of the many beauties of the game is that a Sunday morning foursome at the local muni plays to the exact same set of rules as the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in a professional competition. It’s a common bond that is uncommon in so many other sports.

By reversing its stance on the anchoring ban – or at least acquiescing to the ruling of the USGA and R&A – the PGA Tour is in effect flinching first in this substantial game of chicken. But again, it’s a politically charged strategy. With this announcement, Finchem will contend the policy board’s decision was due largely in part to not wanting to create bifurcation.

It’s a strategy that in many circles will leave the commissioner as a heroic figure for his ability to accept the ban so as to not initiate two separate sets of rules within the game.

Whether these politically charged practices are seen as craftily ingenious or deviously underhanded depends solely on the observer. The reality is, they’re probably a little of both, with the PGA Tour protecting its honor and protecting its players, but ultimately getting its way in the matter. Some would contend they’re having their cake and eating it, too.

What can’t be argued is that there was indeed a political agenda at play here. Finchem is well versed in the strategies involved in such issues. He’s implemented them in the past with similar success and this matter was no different, as he planned three, four, five steps ahead at every checkpoint throughout the process.

It may not explain everything about this decision, but it does serve to explain how an organization that outwardly opposed an anchoring ban just a few months ago is voting in support of it this week.

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Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

''Too many,'' Park said.

The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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Three years later, PXG launches new iron

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.