Old school of thought

By Rex HoggardSeptember 14, 2011, 8:53 pm

Deep within the bowels of Golf Channel’s Orlando, Fla., headquarters Dave Stockton Sr. paces the floor of a “borrowed” office with an energy well beyond his 69 years.

Did you ever consider using a belly putter?

“No,” he answers, confusion etched across his face by the most ridiculous of questions, “why would I?” With that, the game’s preeminent putting guru – and a self-described “old school” guy – turns his attention back to the 42 ¼-inch model he had the folks at TaylorMade make for him last week.

Strange days, indeed.

The title of Stockton’s new book “Unconscious Putting” tells you all you need to know about the 10-time PGA Tour winner.

To Stockton putting is an art, which would, if reality followed perception, make the use of a longer-than-standard-length putter the competitive equivalent of coloring by numbers. Yet as the two-time major champion tinkers with his new belly putter, rolling ball after ball to an imaginary hole, there is no hiding a genuine curiosity.

Four of the last five PGA Tour events have been won by players using long putters, including Keegan Bradley’s historic long-putter breakthrough at the PGA Championship. Stockton’s star pupil, Phil Mickelson, made headlines, if not hay, two weeks ago when he switched to a belly putter at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

In short, Stockton wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So on his way to Mickelson’s Southern California home last week for a pre-BMW Championship session, he had a belly putter built for him.

Call it field work. Call it experimentation. Whatever you call it, the results have been enlightening and Mickelson’s use of the belly putter was, by any measure, a step in the right directon as far as Stockton is concerned.

“(Mickelson) is only going to get better at doing it. He’s got the eyes, he’s got the feel,” Stockton says. “With it anchored like that you’re only going to repeat (the stroke).”

To be clear, Stockton has no plans to convert to a long putter, nor would he advise one of his students to try one, at least not from the outset. In fact, he’s still not sure the long putter’s use should be legal, at least at the highest level.

“I’m old school. I don’t understand how you can anchor it on your body,” he says. “Nobody can tell me how Sam Snead’s croquet (putting style), where nothing is connected but just because you’re straddling your line is illegal, and then tell me (the belly putter) is legal.”

But then, Stockton quickly points out, he thought metal-headed drivers should be illegal the first time he hit one. “I’ve been wrong before,” he smiles.

Turning back the rules-making clock seems highly unlikely considering the long putter’s recent success, both on Tour and among average golfers. At an Orlando-area Edwin Watts store early Wednesday the shelves were nearly bare of long putters. Even in a “down economy” high handicaps from Tacoma to Tallahassee seem willing to dole out big bucks for a putting fix.

All total there were four belly putters and nine broom-handle models on display at the Edwin Watts, compared to, for example, some 22 left-handed, standard-length Odysseys in the rack under a larger-than-life poster of Mickelson wielding his old short model.

“We can’t keep them in stock,” says a sales associate named Alison. “People don’t really care, belly putter, broom-handle, they just want a long putter. It all started with Keegan.”

For “old school” Stockton, it started long before young Bradley became the first player to win a Grand Slam event with a long putter. For Stockton it started when the U.S. Golf Association failed to act, and now it’s too late.

“The ball is in the USGA’s court, they can’t do anything. They can’t scale back now. You can’t say Freddie (Couples) we don’t want you to use it anymore, Phil we don’t want you to use it anymore,” says Stockton, one of the game’s best putters in his prime whose current list of clients include Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Yani Tseng.

“I told (Mickelson), you were in the middle of the (2009) groove controversy and I know this is going to create a storm,” Stockton says. “He certainly is much more relaxed with it. It just feels good to him.”

When asked if he thought Mickelson would put the belly putter back in play this week at Cog Hill Stockton quickly waves his hand, “Absolutely. I’d be surprised if he uses any other putter the rest of the year,” he says.

With that Stockton turns his attention back to his 42 ¼-inch model, seemingly mesmerized by the mechanical simplicity of it all.

The man who pieced together a potential Hall of Fame career (he’s on this year’s HOF ballot) one 5-footer at a time may be less than enamored with the legality of the belly putter, but there is no denying its benefits. Which prompts one last question: does the belly putter reduce the amount of skill needed to be a good putter?

After a long pause, Stockton echoes a line made in recent months by many a Tour type: “It’s not going to putt it for you, you still have to do it right,” he says before another long pause. “I’m never going to advocate someone starting with one of these.”

Stockton may be open-minded, but “old school” is willing to go only so far.

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Report: Tour close to finalizing Detroit tournament

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 7:07 pm

With the final pieces of the 2019 schedule falling into place, the PGA Tour appears on the verge of returning to Michigan for the first time in nearly a decade.

According to a Detroit News report, the Tour is "believed to be close" to an agreement to bring a tournament to the Motor City beginning in 2019, reportedly likely to take place at Detroit Golf Club near downtown.

While the specifics remain undisclosed, the prime candidate for such a move appears to be The National. The Washington, D.C.-area event was sponsored by Detroit-based Quicken Loans from 2014-2017, and this year will be conducted without a title sponsor. According to a Detroit News report in September, Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert was open to continuing his company's sponsorship of the event if it shifted to Detroit.

In addition to The National, the only other current PGA Tour event without a title sponsor is the Houston Open. On Monday Charles Schwab was introduced as the new title sponsor of the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019.

The PGA Tour has not held an event in the state of Michigan since 2009, the final year of the now-defunct Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club. While the final details of a revamped schedule have yet to be announced, the Tour is expected to unveil its itinerary for the 2018-19 season at The Players next month.

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Inbee Park quietly reclaims world No. 1

By Randall MellApril 23, 2018, 6:44 pm

Inbee Park moved back to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings in about as ho-hum fashion as you’ll ever see a player take the top spot.

It isn’t that she doesn’t care about the top ranking. It just wasn’t a priority in her return to golf this year, after missing big portions of the last two years with injuries.

With an Olympic gold medal and seven major championship titles, the LPGA Hall of Famer isn’t done trying to top the scoreboards that matter most to her.

“To be honest, I never really think about being No. 1 again,” Park said early last week, before tying for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open. “If it comes to me, great. If not, it doesn't matter.”

It came to her for the fourth time in her career.

Park, 29, reigned at No. 1 for 59 weeks in her longest run on top, back in the 2013 and ’14 seasons.

Oddly, this run to No. 1 almost comes as a surprise to Park, who didn’t need long to get back to the top spot after returning to the tour. She won the Bank of Hope Founders Cup last month in her second after missing seven months with a back injury.

Park last lost the No. 1 ranking in October of 2015, doing so to Lydia Ko.

In six starts this year, Park has finished T-3 or better four times. She leads the tour in scoring average (69.13) and is second in greens in regulation (77.5 percent).

Just wait until her putter heats up.

Yeah, Park’s not very satisfied with her putting. She’s one of the greatest putters who ever played the women’s game, but she has been frustrated with the inconsistency of her stroke much of this season. Of course, her standards are high. She ranks second in putts per greens in regulation so far this year.

On Sunday, this is how Park summed up her putting in 2018: “Some days, I’ve been really good. Some days, I’ve been really bad.”

Park has led the LPGA in putts per GIR in five of the last 10 years. She switched from her preferred mallet-style putter to a blade earlier this season and won with a Toulon Madison blade at the Founders Cup last month. She was back with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet this past week. That’s the putter she used to win the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro two years ago. She used an Odyssey Sabertooth winged mallet in her 2013 run of three consecutive major championship victories.

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Goose takes down junior golfer - it's awesome

By Nick MentaApril 23, 2018, 6:33 pm

A goose evidently went into business for itself somewhere in Michigan and took down this high school golfer in dramatic, hilarious, photographed fashion. To the evidence we go ...

Per the Blissfield Athletics Twitter account, "The golfers just finished teeing off and were walking down the fairway. To the left there was a goose nest and the golfers did a good job of avoiding it but the guard goose hanging out on the far right thought differently."

Just so we can all continue laughing, the Blissfield account confirmed the kid was OK.

If you're looking for related content, check out Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" and this video:

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It's official: Charles Schwab to sponsor Colonial event

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 6:30 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas – The longest-running PGA Tour event still played at its original site has a new title sponsor, one already deeply involved in golf.

The PGA Tour and Colonial Country Club announced Monday that financial services provider Charles Schwab & Co. will take over as title sponsor starting in 2019. The four-year agreement goes through 2022.

Local companies are backing the event after upscale grocer Dean and Deluca withdrew as title sponsor after only two tournaments of a six-year deal. The companies include American Airlines, AT&T, XTO Energy and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway.

Charles Schwab is already a major sponsor on the PGA Tour. On the PGA Tour Champions, the Charles Schwab Cup is awarded to the season's top player.

Next month's tournament at Colonial, which has hosted since 1946, will be played as the Fort Worth Invitational.