Majors won with long putters don't deserve asterisk

By Rex HoggardJuly 25, 2012, 8:48 pm

There are no uglier offerings on a keyboard for a sports fan than the asterisk. Ambiguously mocking and full of doubt it infects the minds of the faithful like a disease. Just ask Roger Maris and Barry Bonds.

It is the type of distasteful undertone that golf has largely sidestepped for the better part of two centuries. Sure there have been questionable moments in golf’s past, but nothing to rate an asterisk. At least until now.

That the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and U.S. Golf Association seemed destined to rule on long putters, specifically the act of anchoring the club, seems inevitable at this juncture.

“You're going to see us saying something about it one way or the other in a few months rather than years,” R&A chief Peter Dawson said on Monday, a day after Ernie Els became the first man to lift the claret jug using a long putter. “There are still further meetings to be had, so we're just going to have to be patient I'm afraid and wait and see the outcome. But as you know, it is under active discussion.”

For the record, “under active discussion” is akin to yelling fire in a crowded room. For those who read such tea leaves, it now seems certain that the last player using the long putter should please turn off the lights.

Your correspondent tracked down USGA executive director Mike Davis on Saturday at Royal Lytham & St. Annes and he was even more adamant than Dawson that no decision has been made.

But the small print is on the wall.

Els, who beat Adam Scott, who also uses a long putter, was the third long-putter-using player to win a major in the last four Grand Slam gatherings. As Dawson and Davis pointed out, this review process began long before Keegan Bradley won last year’s PGA Championship, but the success of Webb Simpson (U.S. Open), Bradley and Els certainly hasn’t helped the long putter’s long-term prospects.

Davis & Co. also dismiss the notion that the current move against long putters is reactionary to what is happening at the game’s highest levels. In fact, it’s what is happening at the grassroots level that will likely make the ultimate decision.

“There are a lot more recreational players going to this, there are instructors that are telling golfers this is a better way to putt, there are a lot more juniors using it. This wasn’t happening before,” Davis said. “If 50 years from now, if 50 percent of the golf population is using this are we happy with that? That’s the issue at hand.”

But as the long putter heads the way of the dodo bird the lingering question is less about “why” and more “what now?” Three times in the last three days we’ve heard conversations suggesting that those victories for Els, Bradley and Simpson are somehow tainted and that the cursed asterisks should be applied to their triumphs.

Hogwash.

Just ask Davis, who is by all accounts something of a mild-mannered man unless your lot in life is crashing U.S. Open victory ceremonies, but on this he was rather adamant.

“They won playing under the Rules of Golf,” Davis stressed. “Arguably the greatest moment in the history of golf was when Bob Jones won the Grand Slam in 1930. He won with a concave-faced wedge. Shortly thereafter that wedge was ruled non-conforming. Nobody puts an asterisk by Bob Jones winning those Grand Slams.

Sam Snead with the croquet-style putting (which was later outlawed), nobody puts an asterisk by what Sam Snead did. They played the rules when they were the rules.”

For some reason, however, the long putter debate has struck a nerve. Even Els, whose comeback can be traced directly to his use of a long putter, fueled the inferno last year when he was asked why he converted, “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”

And when it’s not legal – golf’s rules makers plan to act by September – how will this era be remembered? The juiced ball – and player – era in baseball is filled with asterisks. Will golf suffer the same fate, or will cooler heads prevail?

That change is coming seems inevitable. That it’s bringing with it talk of the dreaded asterisk is just foolish and blatantly unfair.

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Spieth's schedule violation 'resolved' and a 'win' for fans

By Rex HoggardSeptember 18, 2018, 4:15 pm

ATLANTA – For the first time in his career Jordan Spieth failed to qualify for this week’s Tour Championship, an unexpected turn that also found him on the wrong side of a new PGA Tour regulation.

Under the circuit’s strength-of-field requirement, which began last season, a player must add an event to their schedule that they haven’t played the last four years if they didn’t play at least 25 events in the previous or current seasons.

Since he didn’t qualify for the finale, Spieth will finish the season with 24 events (including the Ryder Cup) and under the policy he “shall be subject to a major penalty,” which is a fine of at least $20,000 or even suspension.


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What that means specifically for Spieth remains unclear, but on Tuesday at East Lake Andy Pazder, the Tour’s chief of operations, said the matter has been addressed.

“I have talked to Jordan and we’ve resolved it,” Pazder said. “We have come to a resolution. I’m not going to be able to share the details of that, [but] I will say the result is something that you will see next season. It’s resolved in a way that’s going to be a win for our tournaments, our fans and golf in general.”

Pazder’s response suggests that Spieth will likely add at least one new event to his schedule next year.

Spieth was not the only player to violate the policy the season. Ian Poulter only played 20 events in 2018, the same as he played last season, and he did not add a new event to his schedule. Pazder said that after the Englishman won the Houston Open in April he justifiably shifted his focus to qualifying for the European Ryder Cup team and played five events this summer in Europe, which kept him from reaching his 25-event minimum or adding an new event.

“We’ve come to a resolution on how he is going to address that,” Pazder said.

Spieth and Poulter are the first players to violate the policy.

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How the new Tour Championship format would look this year and last

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 18, 2018, 2:39 pm

The PGA Tour announced on Tuesday plans to change the FedExCup format for the 2018-19 season. Part of that plan is to assign pre-tournament strokes to players in the Tour Championship based on their playoff standings in the first two events. 

Per GolfChannel.com senior writer Rex Hoggard:

The No. 1 player on the post-season points list will begin the finale at 10 under par. The next four players will start at 8 under through 5 under, respectively, while Nos. 6-10 will begin the tournament at 4 under par with the total regressing by one stroke every five players with those ranked 26th through 30thstarting at even par. The winner at East Lake will also claim the FedExCup.

Here's a look at where players would start this year's Tour Championship under the new format (through the three events already contested):

1 Bryson DeChambeau 10 under
2 Justin Rose 8 under
3 Tony Finau 7 under
4 Dustin Johnson 6 under
5 Justin Thomas 5 under
T-6 Keegan Bradley 4 under
T-6 Brooks Koepka 4 under
T-6 Bubba Watson 4 under
T-6 Billy Horschel 4 under
T-6 Cameron Smith 4 under
T-11 Webb Simpson 3 under
T-11 Jason Day 3 under
T-11 Francesco Molinari 3 under
T-11 Phil Mickelson 3 under
T-11 Patrick Reed 3 under
T-16 Patrick Cantlay 2 under
T-16 Rory McIlroy 2 under
T-16 Xander Schauffele 2 under
T-16 Tommy Fleetwood 2 under
T-16 Tiger Woods 2 under
T-21 Aaron Wise 1 under
T-21 Kevin Na 1 under
T-21 Rickie Fowler 1 under
T-21 Jon Rahm 1 under
T-21 Kyle Stanley 1 under
T-26 Paul Casey Even par
T-26 Hideki Matsuyama Even par
T-26 Gary Woodland Even par
T-26 Marc Leishman Even par
T-26 Patton Kizzire Even par

Here's a look at how last year's Tour Championship played out, with Xander Schauffele winning the event and Justin Thomas claiming the overall FedExCup title, and how it would have looked, all things equal, under the new system (in which Jordan Spieth began the finale as the No. 1 seed and would have started the event at 10 under par). In the new system, Thomas would have been the FedExCup champion.

2017 Tour Championship Player Final score   2017 in new system Player Final score
1 Xander Schauffele -12   1 Justin Thomas  -19
2 Justin Thomas  -11    2 Jordan Spieth  -17 
T-3 Russell Henley  -10    3 Paul Casey  -13 
T-3 Kevin Kisner  -10    T-4 Jon Rahm  -12 
5 Paul Casey  -9    T-4 Brooks Koepka  -12 
6 Brooks Koepka  -8    T-4 Kevin Kisner  -12 
T-7 Tony Finau  -7    T-4 Xander Schauffele   -12
T-7 Jon Rahm  -7    T-8 Justin Rose  -10 
T-7 Jordan Spieth  -7    T-8 Russell Henley  -10 
T-10 Sergio Garcia  -6    T-10 Dustin Johnson  -9 
T-10 Matt Kuchar  -6    T-10 Matt Kuchar  -9 
T-10 Justin Rose  -6    12 Tony Finau  -8 
T-13 Patrick Reed  -5    T-13 Daniel Berger  -7 
T-13 Webb Simpson  -5    T-13 Webb Simpson  -7 
15 Daniel Berger  -4    T-13 Sergio Garcia  -7 
16 Pat Perez  -3    T-16 Pat Perez  -6 
T-17 Jason Day  -2    T-16 Patrick Reed -6 
T-17 Dustin Johnson  -2    18 Marc Leishman  -3
19 Gary Woodland  -1     T-19 Kyle Stanley  -1 
T-20 Patrick Cantlay    T-19 Gary Woodland  -1 
T-20 Jason Dufner    T-21 Jason Day 
T-20 Kyle Stanley  E   T-21 Adam Hadwin 
23 Adam Hadwin  +1   T-21 Patrick Cantlay 
T-24 Brian Harman  +3    T-21 Jason Dufner 
T-24 Marc Leishman  +3    25 Brian Harman  +1 
T-26 Rickie Fowler +6    T-26 Rickie Fowler  +2 
T-26 Hideki Matsuyama  +6    T-26 Hideki Matsuyama  +2 
T-28 Kevin Chappell  +9    28 Charley Hoffman  +6 
T-28 Charley Hoffman  +9    29 Kevin Chappell  +7 
30 Jnonattan Vegas  +10    30 Jhonattan Vegas  +8 
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Stock Watch: Up or down for FedExCup changes?

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 18, 2018, 2:20 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Angela Stanford (+9%): In this era of youthful dominance, Justin Rose and now Stanford offer reminders that sometimes the long, winding journey is even more rewarding. It took Rose 20 years to reach world No. 1; for Stanford, she needed 76 major starts (and 15 years after a major playoff loss) before she finally became a Grand Slam winner, at age 40.

Sang-Moon Bae (+6%): The next time you complain about losing your game after a few weeks away, remember that the two-time Tour winner shelved his clubs for TWO YEARS to fulfill his South Korean military obligations and then regained his card. That’s a heckuva achievement.

FedExCup changes (+5%): Though the Tour Championship shouldn’t count as an official victory – come on, the playoffs leader has a TEN-SHOT head start over No. 26! – the strokes-based system is no doubt easier to follow than the various points fluctuations. RIP, Steve Sands’ whiteboard.

Tyler McCumber (+3%): Maybe he’s on his way to challenging his famous father, who won 10 times on the PGA Tour. A three-time winner this season in Canada, McCumber clinched Mackenzie Tour Player of the Year honors and will be one to watch next year on the Web.

Matthew Wolff (+2%): The reigning NCAA Freshman of the Year is now 2-for-2 this season, winning at both Pebble Beach and Olympia Fields with a 67.2 scoring average. He’s a primetime player.  


FALLING

Amy Olson (-1%): To win a major most need to have their heart broken at least once … but that ugly 72nd-hole double bogey could linger for longer than she probably hoped.  

Lexi (-2%): As heartwarming as it was to watch Stanford snap her major-less drought, keep in mind that the best U.S. player – the 23-year-old Thompson – next April will be five years removed from her lone LPGA major title.

Web final (-3%): Twenty-five Tour cards will be on the line this week at the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship, but here’s guessing you won’t even notice – for some reason, it conflicts with the big tour’s season finale. Why couldn’t this have been played last week, when the Tour was dark and the Web could get some much-needed exposure?

Player of the Year debate (-5%): As much as the Tour might promote otherwise during its big-money conclusion, Justin Thomas said it best on Twitter: Majors trump all. It’s Brooks Koepka’s trophy this year.  

Repairing damage (-6%): Golf’s governing bodies are confident that the new rules (out Jan. 1!) will speed up pace of play, but it’s hard to see how that’s possible when they now will allow players to tap down spike marks on the green. With $1 million and major titles on the line, you don’t think guys will spend an extra minute or two gardening?

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FedExCup gets massive overhaul for next season

By Rex HoggardSeptember 18, 2018, 2:05 pm

ATLANTA – The PGA Tour unveiled more dramatic changes to the FedExCup and its playoffs on Tuesday, outlining a new model to determine the season-long champion and giving a boost to the circuit’s regular season.

Starting next year when the Tour transitions from four post-season events to three, the FedExCup champion will be determined solely on the outcome at the Tour Championship, with players beginning the week at East Lake with a predetermined total based on their position on the points list.

The No. 1 player on the post-season points list will begin the finale at 10 under par. The next four players will start at 8 under through 5 under, respectively, while Nos. 6-10 will begin the tournament at 4 under par with the total regressing by one stroke every five players with those ranked 26th through 30th starting at even par. The winner at East Lake will also claim the FedExCup.


Current FedExCup standings

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


The new system removes the confusing calculations that have highlighted the finale since the season-long race began in 2007 and avoids awkward moments like last year when Xander Schauffele won the Tour Championship but Justin Thomas claimed the FedExCup.

“As soon as the Tour Championship begins, any fan – no matter if they’ve followed the PGA Tour all season or are just tuning in for the final event – can immediately understand what’s going on and what’s at stake for every single player in the field,” commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement.

A player’s rank on the points list will be based on their play in the first two playoff events, The Northern Trust (125 players) and BMW Championship (70 players), and a victory at East Lake will count as an official triumph, although it remains to be seen if players will receive world ranking points at what is essentially a handicapped event.

The Tour also announced the addition of a regular-season bonus pool called the Wyndham Rewards Top 10. The $10 million bonus pool will be based on regular-season performance, with the No. 1 player on the points list after the Wyndham Championship, the final regular-season event, earning $2 million.

In addition to the format changes at the Tour Championship and regular-season race, Monahan announced that the FedExCup bonus pool will increase to $60 million, up from $35 million, with the champion receiving $15 million.

“Now is the time to make these changes,” Monahan said, “and thanks to significant input in the process by our players, partners and fans, I believe we’re making exactly the right moves.”