#AskLav: Anchored putters again take center stage

By Ryan LavnerJuly 4, 2013, 12:28 pm

These are the confessions of an anchorer.

Yes, I’ve used a belly putter since November 2011, and no, the timing was not accidental – I switched three months after Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major while anchoring his putter.

Of course, that’s at odds with the USGA talking points. They have always maintained that anchorers bagging four titles in a six-major stretch had nothing to do with the 2016 ban. They insisted they were trying to define what was a stroke for generations to come. They cited a “tremendous spike in usage,” and indeed there was, especially in the Lavner household. 

Because after watching Bradley prevail in that PGA playoff, and after researching for months the benefits of The Belly, I headed to my local golf shop here in Orlando, lined up 15 balls about 10 feet from the cup, and sank them all. Sold. I bought the putter, right there, no questions asked. (Only later did I discover that the store’s putting green funneled every ball toward the cup, thus tricking naïve customers such as myself that they could make everything with any putter.)

Anyway, like many tour pros, this switch to the long wand was out of desperation. By that point, I had tried just about everything on the greens, with minimal success. Left-hand low. Claw. Overlap. Reverse overlap. Interlock. Fingers down the shaft. Narrow stance. Wide stance. Forward press. Ball back in stance. Pop stroke. Putterhead down the line. Eyes closed. Eyes fixed on the cup. … Only the Kuchar-style arm bar and those fancy counterbalanced putters are left on my to-try list.

Nothing had really worked, which is why the lone highlight of my career, the single shining moment, remains the 2005 high school league championship, when I played out of my mind to shoot 74 and win by six, a performance that illustrated both my low ceiling as a prospect and the weak competition that existed in the Finger Lakes region in New York. Here was a poor man’s John Senden – solid ball-striker, utterly lost on the greens. 

But a strange thing happened after switching to the belly putter in late 2011. Now, I at least feel like I can make putts. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m making more putts, or that I’m a better green-reader, or that I have a better stroke. Probably none of that is true. It just means that when I stand over a putt, my first few thoughts are about pace and line and, finally, not about lagging it close so the putt will be conceded. For a lifetime yipper, that’s progress. 

But on Jan. 1, 2016, this belly putter – this lifeline – will be taken away. Not literally, of course. I could still use the magic wand in casual rounds with friends, most of whom have never been sticklers for USGA rules anyway, what with their foot wedges, generous drops and approximately 19 clubs in the bag. Money games would get a little dicier.

It also remains to be seen what tournament officials of the Red Solo Cup, GolfChannel.com’s annual battle royale, will decide in regards to anchoring. Adopting the ban in 2016 or pushing it back to ’24, as both the PGA Tour and PGA of America suggested, could significantly impact my value as a team member. 

This anchoring ban has focused on the play-for-pay ranks, the men and women competing for millions and leaving their imprint on the sport, and for good reason. But the discussion of whether to ban it or allow it for the pros has never mattered much to me. They’re all talented enough to make the switch, eventually, and with varying levels of success.

The rest of us aren’t so fortunate. A switch back to the short stick guarantees three things: more misses from inside 3 feet; constant tinkering with stances and grips and putters; and less enjoyment playing a difficult game that has never been more expensive or taken longer. 

“One of the great things about golf is that everybody plays under the same set of rules,” the USGA proudly stated last year. 

Because, apparently, that is what we really want as amateurs. To know that we’re playing under the same set of rules as pros who couldn’t putt this poorly on purpose. What a glorious, and ridiculous, game.

Here, your questions for this week’s #AskLav mailbag:

The guess here is that anchoring also will be banned for the over-50 set, for a few reasons. The Champions Tour already struggles with credibility ' some contend the courses are set up too easy, or that the players shouldnt be allowed to ride carts, or that theyre all hopped up on pain relievers. The long putter, fairly or not, has always been viewed as a crutch. And the Champions circuit, fairly or not, is an extension of the PGA Tour. Anchoring cant be banned for everyone else in the world but the aging warriors ' even at the expense of two of the tours most popular players, Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer.

Of the myriad ways to qualify for the years first major, being a 2013 European Tour winner is not one of them.

Spieth could qualify on his own, though he needs to crack the top 70 on the PGA points list by the end of the Canadian Open. (Hes currently 77th.) Based on the season the 19-year-old phenom has had in 2013, however ' from beginning the year with no status anywhere to earning more than $1 million and posting five top 10s (and counting) ' the PGA would be wise to offer the kid his second major start as a pro. No drawback to that.

Els was a solid pick at the Open even before he won a few weeks ago in Germany; now hes one of the top five favorites. Same with Westy, whose ball-striking should separate him in the wind chamber that is Muirfield. Not expecting much from Poults, who doesnt have a top 10 since the Match Play in February. If youre looking for another international player, take Charl Schwartzel.

That, too, struck me as curious when the statement first came out. But if the Tour were to implement the rule early ' for instance, in the fall of 2015, before the start of the new season ' then it would open itself up to possible litigation by playing under two sets of rules, not just the rules set forth by the USGA with the Jan. 1 date.

Um, Ive never played golf with Tiger on a Sunday ' or any day, for that matter ' so lets just assume its a tournament red. But remember, as weve seen this year during his weather-interrupted wins at Torrey Pines and Bay Hill, he wears a Final-Round Red, not just Sunday Red.

Nope. Despite what its statement may imply, this was a surprise to no one, especially the Tour. Its simply posturing by Camp Ponte Vedra.

(Mind blown.) Hard-hitting questions such as these make me wonder why youre only a beat writer for MLB.com

Getty Images

Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:11 am

SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.

Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.

Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.

Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

Getty Images

New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more

By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 8:48 am

If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.

Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.

“You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."

In context, Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)

And out of context, the comment speaks to the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.

Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.

He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

“To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”

What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.

Who’s the best at their best?

In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took him a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.

It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.

But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good, to be overlooked any longer.

And he’s far from done.

“For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”

Watch: Koepka holes out from off the green at 16

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 5:36 am

Brooks Koepka faced a stiff challenge from Gary Woodland on Sunday in South Korea, but eventually it came time to end the suspense.

Having clung to a slim lead for much of the back nine, Koepka looked as though he was going to have to scramble just to save par when he missed the green at 16. 

Instead, caddie Ricky Elliott was able to leave Koepka's putter in the bag.

That holeout combined with a bogey from Woodland at 17 put Koepka ahead by three, allowing him to walk to victory and to the top of the world rankings.

Getty Images

Koepka wins CJ Cup, ascends to world No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 5:07 am

Brooks Koepka eagled the 72nd hole Sunday to cap off a final-round 64, win the CJ Cup and supplant Dustin Johnson as the new No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here's how Koepka took over the golf world Sunday in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-21), Gary Woodland (-17), Ryan Palmer (-15), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-15), Jason Day (-12), Scott Piercy (-12)

What it means: This is Koepka's fifth career PGA Tour victory but only his second in a non-major, following his maiden win back at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Up four to start the day, Koepka saw his lead evaporate as Woodland rocketed up the leaderboard and kept pace with him for much of the back nine. But every time Sunday's result appeared in doubt, Koepka reclaimed his lead in dramatic fashion. He nearly aced the par-3 13th to go ahead by two and later holed out for birdie at the par-4 16th to go up three with two to play. He finished par-eagle at 17 and 18 to shoot a back-nine 29 and close out his third victory in the last five months. With the win, Koepka ascends to the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.

Round of the day: Ryan Palmer set a Nine Bridges course record when he birdied his final seven holes in a row en route to a bogey-free round of 10-under 62 and a solo third-place finish.

Best of the rest: Woodland played his first 16 holes in 9 under par to storm from five back and catch Koepka atop the leaderboard. But his furious Sunday charge finally came to an end when he failed to get up and down for par from the back bunker at 17. He carded his 11th birdie of the round at the 18th hole to sign for 63 and finish solo second.

Biggest disappointment: In retrospect, Woodland called it correctly on Saturday when he said: "You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can. You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number." Woodland put as much pressure on Koepka as he could. He went out and posted that number. Koepka never blinked.

Shot of the day: Koepka's holeout at the par-3 16th, which put him ahead by three, unofficially ending the proceedings:

Quote of the day: "To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid. I don't think this one is going to sink in." - Koepka