Governing bodies propose ban on anchored putting

By Ryan LavnerNovember 28, 2012, 1:30 pm

Anchors away.

Citing a “tremendous spike in usage” and “growing advocacy” among pros and instructors, golf’s governing bodies announced Wednesday that they have proposed a ban on anchored putting that would become effective January 2016.

“We’re not doing this because we said (anchoring) is a great advantage,” U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis told Golf Channel. “It may be advantageous for some, but this is fundamentally about what we think is the right thing for the game.

“Rules changes are about the future of the game, and we really do fundamentally think that defining a stroke is the right thing for the future.”

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Rule 14-1b is expected to be finalized this spring, after a 90-day window that will allow industry insiders to address any lingering concerns. But the new rule won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2016, when the next edition of the Rules of Golf is published.


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“We’re not going into a 90-day comment period lightly,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said. “We want to listen to what people have to say, and if something new comes up, we will certainly consider it.

“But I would stress this is not a popularity contest, not an election. As the governing body we are doing what we think is best for the game of golf, and this is our responsibility.”

The unprecedented decision came as little surprise, after it was reported last month that Davis held a presentation at The McGladrey Classic to explain how a ban would be implemented and to ask players for their support. In a statement, the PGA Tour said Wednesday that it would review the rule change at the next annual player meeting, scheduled for Jan. 22 in San Diego, and it is expected to be reviewed by the Policy Board in March.

The proposed rule states that during a stroke, a player cannot anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.” Among the prohibited strokes: a belly putter anchored against the stomach; anchored long putter to the sternum; the end of the club anchored against the chin; and an anchor point created by the forearm.

Worth noting: A stroke made with the putter resting against the forearm – a method used by Matt Kuchar – was deemed to be a form of grip, not anchoring, which is permitted by the USGA.

It is also important to note that the ban outlaws anchoring, not the putters themselves. So a player would still be able to use a long putter, so long as the butt of the handle is not affixed to a part of the body (chin, sternum, stomach, etc.).

This decision affects all levels of golf – from the recreational level to the professionals – as the governing bodies have decided against bifurcation, or separate rules for touring pros and amateurs.

“One of the great things about golf is that everybody plays under the same set of rules,” Davis said. “It really gives structure to the game. For those people who think we should bifurcate, I’m telling you, you haven’t thought through the ramifications. Once you open Pandora’s box, it will forever change the game. We are steadfast on this one. People who want to bifurcate don’t understand what they’re asking.”

Long putters have been around for decades, of course, but Davis said the percentage of players who have used the clubs have increased from about 2-4 percent in the 1980s and ’90s, to 6 percent from 2006-’10, to about 15 percent this season.

But the controversial issue has taken on heightened importance after three of the past five major winners won while using an anchored putter. Most recently, 14-year-old Tianlang Guan won the Asian Amateur (and thereby earned an invitation to The Masters) while wielding a belly putter, a club which he began using only six months prior, Dawson said.

Asked if this was merely a reaction to those recent successes, Dawson said emphatically, “This is not a major-championship issue. This has been about the upsurge in general usage.”

Added Davis, “We are looking to the future of the game and saying that we don’t think golf should be played this way.”

In 1991, Rocco Mediate became the first player to win a PGA Tour event with a long putter, and the club quickly gained popularity among the over-50 set on the Champions Tour. At that time, the long putter was viewed as a sign of weakness, an aid for players with back problems or putting woes.

No longer.

The narrative has shifted, the battle lines on this issue clearly drawn.

Those who support a ban – which includes Tiger Woods, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer, among others – essentially claim that pressing the butt of the putter against the stomach, chin or sternum provides an unfair advantage because it reduces pressure and nerves while making a stroke. Webb Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open, rebuffed that notion, saying Tuesday, “Well, I was shaking in my boots on that last putt.”

Dawson, however, said that an anchored stroke “takes one of the frailties out of the stroke that is an inherent part of the game.”

Those against a ban point to the fact that none of the top 20 putters on the 2012 PGA Tour used an anchored putter, according to the Tour’s strokes gained-putting statistic. And they also contend that not only is the technique within the rules of the game – and has been for decades – it caused an uproar only after Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA), Simpson (’12 U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (’12 British) each won major championships while using a belly putter. There has been some suggestion that their accomplishments will now be viewed with a mythical asterisk.

“Absolutely not,” Dawson said. “They won fair and square with the rules that existed at the time.”

Does the debate end here? Hardly.

Players such as Carl Pettersson, Tim Clark and Simpson have each used the long putter since college. Anticipating this decision, however, Simpson revealed that he has already begun practicing with the conventional putter, and will use that club in tournament play “as soon as I feel ready.”

Though it had been previously reported that Bradley was prepared to challenge a potential ban, perhaps to the point of legal action, the 26-year-old squashed all notions Tuesday at the World Challenge. Yes, he will continue to use the belly putter until the ban is implemented, but added, “I have total respect for Mike Davis and the USGA, and they are doing what they think is best for the game, and I respect that.”

Said Davis: “We legitimately believe it’s the right thing to do for the game of golf long-term. We know short-term there is going to be some angst over this. We accept that. We don’t like it either. But we want to, once and for all, put this controversial ruling to bed.”

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Rose tries to ignore scenarios, focus on winning

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:59 am

ATLANTA – No one has more to play for than Justin Rose on Sunday at the Tour Championship.

The Englishman will begin the day three strokes behind front-runner Tiger Woods after a third-round 68 that could have been much worse after he began his day with back-to-back bogeys.

Winning the tournament will be Rose’s top priority, but there’s also the lingering question of the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, which he is currently projected to claim.


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“The way I look at tomorrow is that I have many scenarios in play. I have the FedExCup in play. I have all of that to distract me,” Rose said. “But yet, I'm three back. I think that's my objective tomorrow is to come out and play good, positive golf and try and chase down the leader and win this golf tournament. I think in some ways that'll help my other task of trying to win the FedExCup. It'll keep me on the front foot and playing positive golf.”

Although there are many scenarios for Rose to win the season-long title, if Woods wins the Tour Championship, Rose would need to finish fifth or better to claim the cup.

There’s also the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to consider. Rose overtook Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world with his runner-up finish at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. He will retain the top spot unless Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka or Johnson win the finale and he falls down the leaderboard on Sunday.

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McIlroy needs putter to heat up to catch Woods

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:29 am

ATLANTA – Although Rory McIlroy is three strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Tour Championship and tied for second place he had the look of a man with a secret when he left East Lake on Saturday.

Trying to play catch up against Woods is never ideal, but McIlroy’s confidence stemmed from a tee-to-green game that has been unrivaled for three days.

“I definitely think today and the first day were similar,” said McIlroy, whose 66 included birdies at two of his final three holes. “I gave myself plenty of chances, and I think the biggest thing today was only just that one bogey. Got to put your ball in the fairway, put yourself in position, and for the most part, I did that today.”


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For the week McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee, third in strokes gained: approach to the green and second in greens in regulation. But to catch Woods, who he will be paired with, he’ll need a much better day on the greens.

The Northern Irishman needed 30 putts on Day 2 and ranks 23rd, out of 30 players, in strokes gained: putting.

McIlroy skipped the first playoff event, opting instead for an extra week at home to work on his swing and the move has paid off.

“I hit the ball well. My wedge play has been really good,” he said. “I've done a lot of work on it the last few weeks, and it seems to have paid off.”

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Glover trails Straka at Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 12:19 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Sepp Straka moved into position Saturday to earn a PGA Tour card in the Web.com Tour Championship, shooting a 7-under 64 to take the third-round lead.

With the top 25 earners in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals getting PGA Tour cards Sunday, Straka birdied the final three holes to reach 18-under 195 - a stroke ahead of Curtis Luck, Lucas Glover and Denny McCarthy at Atlantic Beach Country Club.

''It's always good to get an extra birdie in late. I got three of them to finish, which was nice,'' Straka said. ''It's very bunched up there, so you can't really take off, you've got to keep the pedal down and see where you end up at the end.''

Straka entered the week tied for 80th in the card race with $2,744. The 25-year-old former Georgia player from Austria won the KC Golf Classic in August for his first Web.com Tour title. He finished 31st on the money list to advance to the four-tournament series.

''My ball-striking is really good,'' Straka said. ''It's been good all week. It's been really solid. I really haven't gotten in a whole lot of trouble and have been able to capitalize on a good number of chances with the putter. Hit a couple of bad putts today, but some really good ones to make up for it.''


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Luck also shot 64. The 22-year-old Australian went into the week 16th with $41,587.

''Obviously, it just comes down to keeping that momentum going and trying not to change anything,'' Luck said. ''That's the really important thing and I felt like I did that really well. I played really aggressive on the back nine, still went after a lot of shots and I hit it close a lot out there.''

Glover had a 68. The 2009 U.S. Open champion entered the week 40th with $17,212.

McCarthy shot 67. He already has wrapped up a card, earning $75,793 in the first three events to get to 11th in the standings.

The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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Woods' dominance evokes an old, familiar feeling

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:14 am

ATLANTA – It felt so familiar – the roars, the fist pumps, the frenzied scramble to keep up with a leaderboard that was quickly tilting in Tiger Woods’ direction.

For the handful of players who were around when Woods made a mysterious and maddening game seem simple, it was like old times, times that weren’t necessarily good for anyone not named Tiger.

“I’m kind of nostalgic,” admitted Paul Casey, who turned pro in 2000, when Woods won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes, one of his nine PGA Tour victories that year.

Casey’s 66 on Day 3 at the Tour Championship vaulted him into a tie for sixth place, but as the Englishman quickly vetted the math he knew those numbers were nothing more than window dressing.

“Sixty-four is my best on a Sunday which puts me at 11 [under], so if he’s 12 I need to shoot my career best in the final round and he needs to do something very un-Tiger-like,” Casey laughed. “I think I’m just posturing for position.”

Casey wasn’t giving up. In fact, given that he outdueled Woods earlier this year to win the Valspar Championship he could have hedged his comments and left the door cracked however slightly. But he’s seen, and heard, this too many times to allow competitive necessity to cloud reality.

On Saturday at East Lake, Tiger Woods was his best version. Throughout this most recent comeback he’s offered glimpses of the old guy, the guy whose name atop a leaderboard echoed through locker rooms for the better part of two decades. After starting the day tied for the lead with Justin Rose, Tiger quickly separated himself from the pack with a birdie at the first.

He added another at the third and by the time he birdied the seventh hole, his sixth birdie of the day, he’d extended that lead to five shots and was sending an unmistakable message that reached well beyond the steamy confines of East Lake.


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This was what so many had waited for. This was the Tiger that Casey and others grew up dreading, a machine that never misses iron shots and makes clutch putts look like tap-ins.

“The crowds were electric,” said Rose, who was paired with Woods. “He was running the tables there. He was hitting good shots and making the conversion putts.”

Woods did come back to earth after his blistering start, playing his final 10 holes in 1 over par, but that did little to change the mood as the season moved to within 18 holes of the finish line.

He would finish with a round-of-the-day 65 for a three-stroke lead over Rose and Rory McIlroy. The next closest players were a dozen strokes back, including Casey at 5 under par who didn’t need to be reminded of Woods’ 54-hole conversion rate.

There are no guarantees in sports but Tiger with a 54-hole lead has been about as close to a lock as one will find this side of Las Vegas. He’s 42-for-44 when going into the final round with the outright lead and the last time he blew a 54-hole lead was at the 2009 PGA Championship.

Of course, he hasn’t had a 54-hole lead since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Truth is, he hasn’t had much of anything since ’13 when his dominance was sidetracked by an ailing back. As intimidating as Woods’ play has been this week there was an unmistakable sense of, let’s call it curiosity.

Asked if Woods’ lead felt different than it may have a decade ago, Rose’s response was telling. “Maybe,” he allowed after a pause. “It's a little more unknown now. Obviously his history, his statistics from this point are impeccable. They're incredible. But he's human, and there's a lot on it for him tomorrow, as well as the rest of us.”

Rose wasn’t trying to trick himself into thinking the impossible was possible, although many have when they’ve found themselves in similar positions, it was simply the truth. Woods has had multiple chances this season to complete the comeback and he’s come up short each time.

It was a poor iron shot off the 72nd tee at the Valspar Championship and an even worse drive a week later at Bay Hill’s 16th hole. It was a misplayed chip late on the back nine at The Open and a collection of missed putts at the PGA Championship, although in his defense it’s unlikely anyone could have caught Brooks Koepka at Bellerive.

Nor was Rose being disrespectful. It’s simple math, really, and Woods’ body of work to this point, although wildly impressive considering how far he’s come in 12 months both physically and competitively, paints a clear picture. Given multiple chances to break through the victory ceiling he’s failed to deliver the way he did before injury and multiple back procedures.

“I've felt very comfortable when I got into the mix there at Tampa even though it was very early in my start to this year. And because of that, I felt comfortable when I got to Bay Hill, (and) when I grabbed the lead at The Open Championship,” Woods said. “Things that didn't really feel abnormal, even though it's been years, literally years, since I've been in those spots, but I think I've been in those spots enough times that muscle memory, I guess I remembered it, and I felt comfortable in those spots.”

In many ways the script couldn’t have been written any better for Woods. It’s the bottom of the ninth, two outs and the bases are loaded for the 14-time major champion. Hero time, his time.

He’s been here so many times in his career and succeeded more times than not, and this new, reimagined version has the ultimate chance to complete what would arguably be the greatest comeback in sports history.

The ultimate test still remains, but for 18 holes on Saturday it felt so familiar.