#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

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.

Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.

Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.

''I'm ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,'' said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. ''I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.''

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.

''If she's not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,'' Moriya said about Ariya.

Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

''I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I'm really happy with that,'' Park said. ''I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don't know what's going to happen.''

Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

''Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,'' Jutanugarn said. ''I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.''

Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

''It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,'' Inglis said.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."

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Z. Johnson, Landry share 54-hole Texas Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 10:56 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson birdied the par-5 18th Saturday at the Valero Texas Open for a share of the third-round lead with Andrew Landry, a stroke ahead of record-setting Trey Mullinax.

Johnson shot a 4-under 68, holing a 10-footer on 18 to match Landry at 13-under 203 at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks. Landry birdied the 16th and 17th in a 67.

Johnson won the event in 2008 and 2009, the last two times it was played at LaCantera. The 42-year-old Iowan is trying to win for the first time since the 2015 British Open.

''I've got 18 holes to get to that point,'' Johnson said. ''I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side and that was give myself opportunities on every hole. I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well, so it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch.''

The 30-year-old Landry is winless on the tour.

''I'm a good putter and I just need to give myself a lot of opportunities tomorrow like I did today,'' Landry said. ''I'll be looking forward to tomorrow.''

Mullinax had a course-record 62. He played the back nine in 7-under 29, going 6 under on the last five with eagles on the par-5 14th and 18th and birdies on 16 and 17. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and bogeyed 11.

''It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had,'' Mullinax said. ''To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good.''

Johnson played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He birdied Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 18 on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

''Different wind today early on, misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above,'' Johnson said. ''But truthfully, my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts, but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities especially on the back side.''

Landry had a bogey-free round.

''I just did everything really good,'' Landry said. ''I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat.''

Ryan Moore was two strokes back at 11 under after a 70. Sean O'Hair had a 65 to join 2015 champion Jimmy Walker (67), Chris Kirk (68) and 2013 winner Martin Laird (69) at 9 under.

''I just feel like I'm getting closer and closer to playing better and better golf, more solid golf, putting rounds together,'' Walker said. ''I'm excited for the opportunity tomorrow.''

Mullinax has made 42 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

''They just kind of remind me of greens from home,'' Mullinax said. ''My caddie, David (Flynn), has been reading them really well. We trusted each other on our reads and I've been hitting good putts. Been working hard on putting on the weeks off that I've had so it's good to see some results.''

The 25-year-old former Alabama player chipped in for the eagle on 14 and the birdie on the par-3 16th.

''It was just a little bit down the hill,'' he said about the 16th. ''All you had to do was just land it just past that little light grass spot. My caddie told me just read it like a putt, so I tried to just read it like a putt and it went in.''

On 18, he hit a 3-iron from 255 yards to 15 feet to set up his eagle putt. He broke the course record of 63 set by Matt Every in 201 and matched by Laird in 2013. The tournament record is 60 at LaCantera, by Bart Bryant in 2004 and Johnson in 2009.