PGA Tour means business with anchor opposition

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2013, 12:08 am

This feels like a showdown now.

We know what cards the PGA Tour is holding. We know what cards the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club are holding. Now, it’s all a matter of who’s going to fold.

It’s that simple, no matter how diplomatically the governing bodies couch their attempts to resolve what has blown up into a clear and fundamental disagreement.

We moved into showdown mode Sunday at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem revealed that the Tour is strongly opposed to the proposed ban on anchored strokes put forth by the USGA and R&A.

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“Essentially where the PGA Tour came down was that they did not think that banning anchoring was in the best interest of golf, or the PGA Tour,” Finchem said.

Finchem said the opposition to the proposed new rule among players is overwhelming. He said 13 of 15 members of the Players Advisory Council came down against the rule.

“I think the essential thread that went through the thinking of the players, and our board of directors, and others that looked at this was that in the absence of data, or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring, and given the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, that there was no overriding reason to go down that road,” Finchem said. 

With the designated comment period on the proposal ending this week, it’s now up to the USGA and R&A to decide if they are going to go all in on their proposal.

Are they actually going to follow through and implement a new definition of a stroke that will serve as a ban against anchoring putters and other strokes beginning in 2016?

Yes, the USGA and R&A sought a comment period, but they have resolutely laid out their belief that the game needs this new rule against anchoring. They did so with such earnestness that you would have to question how in touch the leadership is with its base to have gone this far and then back down.

“I would stress this is not a popularity contest, not an election,” R&A Chief Peter Dawson said when the new rule was proposed. “As the governing body, we are doing what we think is best for the game of golf, and this is our responsibility.”

USGA executive director Mike Davis was just as forceful back then.

“There is absolute alignment between the R&A and the USGA on this one,” Davis said. “The leadership feels strongly that it is in the best interests of the game.”

Given the impassioned nature of the USGA and R&A’s argument for the change, how can they back down now?

And how does the PGA Tour go against the will of its players and acquiesce to the rule change after making its own impassioned stance?

Asked point blank what the PGA Tour would do if push comes to shove, Finchem was non-commital.

“We hold the USGA in the highest regard as a key part of the game of golf,” Finchem said. “We don't attempt to denigrate that position in any way whatsoever. It's just on this issue, we think if they were to move forward, they would be making a mistake.”

For those of you who think the PGA Tour’s posturing, maybe so, but Finchem went out of his way to make the PGA Tour’s opposition about as public as you could make it. He revealed the Tour’s opinion Sunday in a news conference during the finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. And then he went on the NBC telecast and explained the Tour’s position.

Would Finchem go that far in stating the Tour’s opposition if it intends to acquiesce? Why make such a strong public stance then?

It’s possible there is some compromise here we aren’t seeing coming. Maybe the Tour’s leveraging a compromise. Maybe, as some equipment sages have suggested, players using the long putters will be grandfathered into the PGA Tour’s adoption of the rule? That way, the PGA Tour’s long putters are protected, but the game’s future is left more securely in the USGA and R&A’s hands.

“There's no reason to assume that everybody is going to go down different paths,” Finchem said. “I just want to try to calm that sense down. I think that we ought to be able to have a discussion about this and come to conclusions without negativity. We also have reasons why we feel like the reasons put forward to do this are not compelling, and that's all we can do. We can give them our thoughts.”

So much of this give and take between the USGA, R&A and PGA Tour should have been done before we ever got here. It should have been done behind closed doors before the proposed rule ever went public.

There’s too much at stake to have this all hanging so publicly in the balance. Really, in a worst-case scenario, we could have long putters anchored at future Masters and PGA Championships while anchoring is against the rules at the U.S. Open and British Open. If that ever happens, the game’s damaged.

We could also easily see this all end without fuss, with uniform rules protected, but it feels like that is only going to happen if somebody backs down in this showdown. 

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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.”

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

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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.