Manufacturers working around proposed anchor ban

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2013, 9:32 pm

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – As best anyone can tell, the PGA Tour’s first players’ meeting of 2013 on Tuesday at Torrey Pines featured plenty of questions about the proposed ban on anchored putters and precious few answers.

As commissioner Tim Finchem figured on Wednesday when asked if the circuit would deviate from either the impending mandate or the timeline for implementation (2016), “damned if you do, damned if you don't to some extent.”

Got that?

Yet while Tuesday’s confab delivered little by way of facts, comments leading up to the meeting did seem to solidify the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club’s resolve to put an end to anchoring.

PGA Merchandise Show: Articles, videos, photos

With little time left in the 90-day comment period (Feb. 28) before the rule is finalized USGA executive director Mike Davis told the Associated Press that the association has received “very good feedback,” but nothing that has caused the rule makers to feel as though they missed something in writing the rule.

In short, change is afoot, a reality that many manufacturers at the PGA Merchandise Show’s Demo Day on Wednesday found to be an inconvenient truth.

“Tell me what is broken?” implored Jim Grundberg, a managing partner with the SeeMore Putter Company. “I understand coming to the decision 20 or 30 years ago, but there are so many ways that people swing I don’t understand why they would do this now.”

To be clear, Grundberg and the other dozen or so putter manufacturers working the sprawling 360-degree practice tee at Orange County National have a dog in this fight, but not as much as one might think.

Jim Barfield, the vice president of tour operations for Rife, estimated the long-putter portion of their market had grown to about 20 percent before news started to leak last year that the USGA and R&A had the longer-than-standard-length models in their crosshairs.

“Now it’s dropped to about 5 percent,” Barfield said.

Yet the basic tenets of supply and demand would suggest that if Joe Three-putt isn’t buying a belly putter he will just find his putting answers with some new form of technology.

The folks at Odyssey Golf are already preparing for LAA – Life After Anchoring – with the new “Arm Lock” shaft that features a 43-inch shaft and an additional 7 degrees of loft so players can anchor the end of the club into the forearm Matt Kuchar style, a method that would be allowed under the proposed anchoring rule.

“The extra loft allows for 4 degrees of forward press and you end up with the traditional 3 degrees of normal loft,” said Odyssey rep Chuck McCollough, who noted that consumers have already started to shun belly and broom-handle putters at retail.

That, however, will do little to blunt the impact the proposed ban will have in other corners of the game. While some, quite possibly the USGA and R&A, view anchoring as a crutch, Barfield sees the belly and broom-handle putter as more than simply a cure for the yips.

“I played professionally in the 1990s and lost my feel for putting. It wasn’t the yips, just the feel,” said Barfield, who is Rife’s Champions Tour rep. “In ’93 I made a long putter and I was able to play a couple more years. All it did is allow me to practice more which gives you better feel and more confidence.”

Barfield has seen the transition firsthand on the over-50 circuit, from Bernhard Langer to Fred Couples, and without the long putter he fears many of these Champions Tour legends will opt for retirement over irrelevance.

Davis has stressed that the proposed ban is in reaction to the growing popularity of the long putter at the grassroots level and not victories at three of the last five majors by players using longer-than-standard-length putters, but Grundberg contends there is no data that suggests long putters are a magic bullet.

“The guys who have had success with it were because they worked at it, but that happens with guys who use short putters,” Grundberg said. “It wasn’t the anchoring part, it was hope. ‘Hey, this could help.’”

Grundberg, like Finchem, also sees the potential collateral damage the ban could have on some players like Webb Simpson (2012 U.S. Open), Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA Championship) and Ernie Els (2012 British Open). Unlike baseball, golf doesn’t do asterisks, but the inevitable and utterly unfair reaction will be that these players won using equipment that was later deemed nonconforming.

“It’s not steroids, but it’s the same sort of thing,” Grundberg said.

The general feeling among major manufacturers is that the proposed ban wouldn’t be worth fighting. Unlike high-margin items like drivers and golf balls, long putters make up a small portion of the golf market. Yet for those whose life’s work has been building a better putter, the rule closes a crucial door that for many made the game possible.

“You are not only penalizing the guys who are doing it today you are penalizing everyone who may want to use it in the future,” Barfield said.

As Barfield surveys a rack dotted with assorted long putters he shrugs, “Guess we’ll convert them to the Kuchar style (of forearm anchoring),” he shrugs.

The rules may be changing, but the quest has not.

Getty Images

Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee birdied the 18th hole Sunday for a one-stroke victory over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship.

Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round around the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18, a reachable par 5. Her second shot landed a few feet to the right of the green, and she calmly chipped to about 3 feet

She made the putt to finish at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. It was the Australian standout's fourth career victory and first since 2016.

Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Getty Images

Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

Getty Images

Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst shot an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

The 52-year-old Englishman finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory. He won six times on the European Tour and has three European Senior Tour victories.

BYU men's golf team BYU

Sunday rule proves no advantage for BYU at NCAAs

By Ryan LavnerMay 27, 2018, 10:06 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – For all the kvetching about the advantage BYU would gain by not playing on Sunday with the other teams at the NCAA Championship, one small thing was conveniently forgotten.

What happens if the Cougars were actually disadvantaged?

That’s what appears to have happened here at Karsten Creek.

Because the Mormon-run school prohibits athletics on Sunday, the NCAA accommodated BYU using its “Sunday Play” rule for the first time in the match-play era. (It was the team’s first NCAA berth since 2006.) That meant that BYU played its practice round last Wednesday, before the start of the final match of the NCAA Women’s Championship. The next day, the Cougars played their Sunday round – the third round of stroke-play qualifying – a half hour after the other 29 teams completed their practice round.

Some coaches grumbled about the issue of competitive fairness: What if BYU played in calm conditions for its third round on Thursday, while everybody else competed in rain and 30-mph winds come Sunday?

BYU coach Bruce Brockbank has been on the NCAA competition committee for the past four years, but even he was curious about how it would all play out.

For the practice round, the NCAA informed the Cougars that they needed to be off the course by 1:30 p.m. local time, a little more than a half hour before the start of the women’s final between Arizona and Alabama. All six players got a look at the course in 5 hours and 30 minutes – or an hour and 15 minutes less than the official Thursday practice round – and needed to run between shots on the 17th and 18th holes to finish on time.

Brockbank tried to prepare his players for what they would face Thursday. It’s a different experience without a playing marker – not seeing another shot affected by the wind, not watching another ball break on the greens, not falling into a rhythm with pace – but perhaps no amount of simulated rounds would have helped.

Playing as singles, with only a rules official and a walking scorer by its side, BYU began its NCAA Championship at 4 p.m. local time Thursday. The Cougars got in only a few holes before the horn sounded to suspend play. It turned out to be a two-hour weather delay, and players slapped it around a sloppy, soggy course until dark, with their last single on the 11th hole.

They returned the next morning, at 6:55, and wrapped up their round in an hour and a half before turning around for another 18.

Their final tally? They shot 24-over 312 – easily the worst third-round score of any team.

“We obviously didn’t handle it very well,” Brockbank said, “but it definitely wasn’t an advantage.”

BYU rebounded the next two rounds, with scores of 298-286, putting the team squarely inside the top-15 cut line.

“And six or seven hours,” he said, “we were right there with the best teams in the country.”

But then the third-round scores got posted, and it was clear that they had no chance of advancing past the 54-hole cut.

“It was pretty frustrating to watch our guys,” he said. “We just didn’t handle it very well.”

The same was true for the team’s best player, senior Patrick Fishburn. With just the first and second round counting, Fishburn (67-72) was in a tie for second, one shot off the individual lead, heading into Sunday. Then his third-round 78 from Thursday was posted, and he tumbled down the leaderboard, needing help just to advance to the final round of stroke-play qualifying.

“I’d rather have it this way,” Brockbank said. “If we had shot 5 under par and everyone else is over par, I don’t want to hear that wrath. The coaches wouldn’t put up with that. The fact that we’re not a factor, it’ll go away. But if the day did go well, it would have been a different story.”

Still, it was a strange dynamic Sunday, as a team competing in the NCAA Championship never even made it to the course – Brockbank preferred that the guys stay away from Karsten Creek, if only for appearances.

They went to a local church for three hours, then ate lunch and retired to the team hotel, where they watched TV and studied and played chess. Fishburn has another round to play Monday, but he didn’t even hit balls.

“I don’t think he’s even concerned about that – it’s just a nice, quiet Sabbath day,” Brockbank said. “But as a coach, it’s definitely a little odd.”