Clock ticking as anchoring ban looms in 2016

By Rex HoggardJanuary 7, 2015, 6:35 pm

Along with a new calendar and the PGA Tour’s annual fortnight in Hawaii, the New Year always brings a slate of resolutions that are as varied as golf swings.

Phil Mickelson wants to lose 20 pounds and add a U.S. Open title, Tiger Woods wants to add 5 pounds and lose his orthopedic surgeon’s phone number; while Nick Price wants to lose six team matches from this year’s Presidents Cup and add a few countries to the International side, say England and Northern Ireland.

Other resolutions, however, are much more esoteric.

When Tim Clark tees off on Friday for Round 1 of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions he, along with a number of his Tour frat brothers, will officially be on the clock.

The U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient’s ban on anchoring is no longer some distant bridge that will need to be burned at a later date.

Change is coming and it’s time to embrace that reality.

Some, like Keegan Bradley who became the first player to win a major (2011 PGA Championship) using an anchored putter, have already begun the process.

“I’m trying to work my way into it,” said Bradley at December’s Hero World Challenge where he sported a non-anchored putter. “It feels comfortable, actually.”

Others, like Adam Scott, don’t appear to be in any real hurry to convert, but that will change as the Jan. 1, 2016, deadline approaches.

Dave Stockton Sr., who has become one of the Tour’s preeminent putting gurus, said the transition will be easier than many think, particularly among some of the game’s most high-profile players.

“In my era the long putters were the guys who couldn’t putt worth a lick, it didn’t matter what they used,” Stockton said in December. “But these days you have good athletes and it’s a totally different deal. That’s why I think they can use anything.”

Stockton expects many of those who currently anchor will either transition to the Matt Kuchar method of putting, which features a longer-than-normal shaft that is anchored (but legal under the new rule) in the forearm, or a combination of counter-balanced putters with oversized grips.

While the Kuchar method, which was developed with input from Stockton, has been successful for some, the mechanics of the stroke have made it difficult for others.

“I’ve had three or four guys try the Kuchar method, but there are a bunch of funky angles, you have to have 6 or 7 degrees of loft and it’s just weird,” said Scott Hamilton, who has emerged as one of the circuit’s top putting coaches. “I’ve got one in my putting studio but you have to get the perfect putter for you.”

Most experts agree the most difficult transitions will be for players who currently use broom-handle putters.

“Counter-balance putters will be the best option. You can float it (the end of the putter). You don’t have to have it anchored to you,” Stockton said. “Someone like Bernhard (Langer) is going to have a tough time because it’s up here (near his chin).”

Like Langer, Scott also uses a broom-handle putter, although he played with a standard-length model for much of his early career, which might explain why he was among a vocal minority who opposed the ban.

For Scott, the world’s third-ranked player, the answer to next January’s ban may be measured in fraction of inches.

“Guys like Adam Scott just won’t anchor, just hold it off their chest. They just have to figure out how to hold that thing off their body and putt,” Hamilton said.

Others may not face such an easy transition. Clark has used a belly putter since he joined the Tour in 2001 because of a condition that doesn’t allow him to supinate his forearms.

While players like Kevin Stadler have concocted unorthodox options to meet the impending change.

“His choice is if he’s not going to use an anchored putter he’s going to use a left-handed putter,” said Stockton, who has been working with Stadler to find a putting solution since last spring. “I’ve convinced him he can putt right-handed fine, but we’ll see.”

It is worth pointing out much of the concern seems historically misplaced. While the individual professional will surely endure his share of anxiety as he makes the transition, if similar rule changes are any indication the ban will do little to stem the Tour’s scoring onslaught.

The USGA and R&A dialed back the grooves in clubs in 2010 in an attempt to “reduce spin on shots played from the rough by highly skilled golfers . . . this should result in an increase in the importance of driving accuracy.”

Those who currently anchor should be encouraged by the fact that the overall driving accuracy average on Tour has decreased over the last five years and yet the scoring average (71.18 compared to the average over the previous five years of 71.38) has dropped. 

Maybe the best New Year’s resolution for those who currently anchor should be to worry less.

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Ko part of 5-way tie for Mediheal lead

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:20 am

DALY CITY, Calif. - Lydia Ko was back on top at Lake Merced.

Ko shot a 4-under 68 on a chilly Thursday morning at the LPGA Mediheal Championship for a share of the first-round lead. Jessica Korda, Caroline Hedwall, In-Kyung Kim and Su Oh joined Ko atop the leaderboard in the LPGA's return to Lake Merced after a year away.

''This is a golf course where you need to drive the ball well and putt well,'' said Ko, the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic winner at the course in 2014 and 2015.

Ko eagled the par-5 fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. The New Zealander has 14 LPGA wins, the last in July 2016.

''It's nice to come back to a place where you feel super-welcomed,'' Ko said. ''It just brings back a lot of great memories. ... My family and friends are here this week, so I'm hoping that I'm going to continue the solid play.''

She turned 21 on Tuesday.

''I don't think I feel a huge difference, but I know turning 21 is a huge thing in the U.S.,'' Ko said, ''So, I'm legal and I can do some fun things now.''

Korda, playing alongside Kim a group ahead of Ko, also eagled the fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. Korda won in Thailand in February in her return from reconstructive jaw surgery.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

''The score says one thing and my hands say another,'' Korda said. ''It was really cold out there today, so it was good that I stuck to kind of my process. ... Actually, this is still some of the nicer conditions that we've played in compared to the past. I'll take the cold as long as there's no rain.''

Hedwall and Kim each had five birdies and a bogey.

''I just love the city. It's really nice,'' said Hedwall, from Sweden. ''It's sort of a European-style city with all the shopping going on downtown and stuff. I love it here. I even like this weather, suits me really well, too.''

Oh had a bogey-free round. The Australian was the only one of the five players tied for the lead to play in the afternoon.

''It was cold and pretty windy out there and, because it's got a lot of elevation, it kind of swirls in the middle like in the low areas, so it was tough,'' Oh said. ''I hit the ball really solid today. Then the ones I missed, I made really good up-and-downs.''

Lexi Thompson, Sei Young Kim, Charley Hull and Celine Herbin shot 69.

''This course is very challenging, especially when the wind picks up,'' the third-ranked Thompson said. ''It's chilly, so it's a little longer of a course. Some of the par 5s are reachable, so you try to take advantage of that, but pars were good and just take the birdie chances as you can get them.''

Moriya Jutanugarn, the winner Sunday in Los Angeles for her first LPGA title, had a 71 playing with former Stanford student Michelle Wie and ANA Inspiration winner Pernilla Lindberg. Wie had a 74, and Lindberg shot 79. Ariya Jutanugarn matched her sister with a 71, playing in the group with Ko.

Top-ranked Inbee Park matched playing partner Brooke Henderson with a 72. The third member of the afternoon group, second-ranked Shanshan Feng, shot 73.

Juli Inkster shot 72. The 57-year-old Hall of Famer grew up in Santz Cruz, starred at San Jose State and lives in Los Altos. She won the last of her 31 LPGA titles in 2006.

Stacy Lewis had a 74 after announcing that she is pregnant with a due date of Nov. 3. She plans to play through the Marathon Classic in July and return for a full season next year.

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Glover, Reavie share Zurich lead with Chinese pair

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:04 am

AVONDALE, La. - Chez Reavie had quite a few good moments at TPC Louisiana on Thursday. So did teammate Lucas Glover.

In best-ball format, the most important thing was those moments came on different holes.

Reavie and Glover teamed to shoot a 12-under 60 for a share of the Zurich Classic lead with China's Zhang Xinjun and Dou Zecheng.

''Chez started well and I picked it up in the middle of the back nine,'' Glover said. ''He closed it off and then we both played really well on the front. Just kind of ham and egged it, I guess, as they would say.''

Reavie and Glover each had six birdies in the best-ball format, pushing through soggy weather early in the round before conditions cleared at TPC Louisiana. Six teams are two shots back in a tie for third after shooting 62.

''We were just rolling,'' Reavie said. ''I think we're comfortable. We like to laugh and have a good time when we're playing golf, and it definitely helps.''

Zhang and Dou birdied four of their final five holes. Dou made a 31-foot putt on No. 9 to cap the impressive rally and jump into the lead with Reavie and Glover.

Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

Tony Finau-Daniel Summerhays, Chris Paisley-Tommy Fleetwood, J.J. Henry-Tom Hoge, Michael Kim-Andrew Putnam, Kevin Kisner-Scott Brown and Troy Merritt-Brendon de Jonge shot 62. Jason Day and Ryan Ruffels shot 64.

It's the first time since last year's Tour Championship that the reigning champs of all four majors have been in the same field. None of them were among the leaders after the first round.

Masters champion Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay had a 65, and British Open winner Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer were at 66.

''I didn't feel like there was really any rust,'' Reed said. ''I felt like I hit the ball all right today. I felt I hit some good quality putts. A couple of them went in, a couple of them didn't.''

This is the second year that two-player teams have competed at the Zurich Classic. The unusual tournament features best-ball play in the first and third rounds and alternate shot in the second and final rounds.

U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and Marc Turnesa shot a 67. PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley shot a 70.

There are 80 teams in the tournament and the top 35, along with ties, will make the cut after Friday's second round.

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Lewis says she's expecting first child in November

By Randall MellApril 27, 2018, 2:18 am

Stacy Lewis is pregnant.

The 12-time LPGA winner confirmed after Thursday’s first round of the Mediheal Championship that she and her husband, University of Houston women’s golf coach Gerrod Chadwell, are expecting their first child on Nov. 3.

Lewis learned she was pregnant after returning home to Houston in late February following her withdrawal from the HSBC Women’s World Championship with a strained oblique muscle.

“We're obviously really excited,” Lewis said. “It wasn't nice I was hurt, but it was nice that I was home when I found out with [Gerrod]. We're just really excited to start a family.”

Lewis is the third big-name LPGA player preparing this year to become a mother for the first time. Suzann Pettersen announced last month that she’s pregnant, due in the fall. Gerina Piller is due any day.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

Piller’s husband, PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, withdrew from the Zurich Classic on Thursday to be with her. Piller and Lewis have been U.S. Solheim Cup partners the last two times the event has been played.

“It's going to be fun raising kids together,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, they're best friends and they hang out. But just excited about the next few months and what it's going to bring.”

Lewis, a former Rolex world No. 1 and two-time major championship winner, plans to play through the middle of July, with the Marathon Classic her last event of the year. She will be looking to return for the start of the 2019 season. The LPGA’s maternity leave policy allows her to come back next year with her status intact.

“This year, the golf might not be great, but I've got better things coming in my life than a golf score.” Lewis said. “I plan on coming back and traveling on the road with the baby, and we'll figure it out as we go.”

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Coach scores in NFL Draft and on golf course

By Grill Room TeamApril 27, 2018, 1:47 am

To say that Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had a good day Thursday would be an understatement. Not only did his team snag one of the top defensive players in the NFL Draft - Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith, who the Bears took with the eighth pick of the first round - but earlier in the day Fangio, 59, made a hole-in-one, sinking a 9-iron shot from 125 yards at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis.

Perhaps the ace isn't so surprising, though. In late May 2017, Fangio made another hole-in-one, according to a tweet from the Bears. The only information supplied on that one was the distance - 116 yards.