Tuesday, January 29, 2013


The controversy surrounding the long putter has become an anchor around the neck of the golf community- literally. Since the USGA and R&A announced their intention to ban the anchored stroke on November 29 all hell has broken loose. We are currently two thirds of the way through the ninety day comment period that was created by golf’s ruling bodies and nothing has been accomplished, except the creation of more controversy. 
Most golfers had never heard the term bifurcation prior to November 2012. In a simplistic golf sense, bifurcation means that amateurs and touring professionals could play by two different sets of rules. That has never happened in the history of the game. But the proposal to ban anchoring has caused some of golf’s leading advocates to speak in bifurcation tongue.
“We have had this ongoing discussion about anchoring at a time when we think it’s a terrific time for golf, “ said Tim Finchem, PGA Tour Commissioner, last week in Orlando. “I hate to see distractions…. I think it’s a tough issue for our players… But, you are affecting a lot of amateur players and a lot of players at the elite level who grew up with it.
“In certain situations, I think it’s something (bifurcation) you should consider and look at. I also think that generally when something like this comes up, you should evaluate what it does at the elite player level, but also, what impact it has on the average player, and certainly that is the situation with anchoring,” added Finchem.
Interestingly enough this week in GolfWorld, David Fay, former executive director of the USGA, was quoted as saying, “Bifurcation? Sure, but so what. Adding one or two specialized equipment rules… will not signal the end to the game.”
In the February edition of Golf Digest, Jerry Tarde the magazine’s longtime editor, expressed the following comments in the closing paragraph of an editorial entitled “Anchored Putting + What’s Next.”
“I don’t hit the ball far enough to want my ball rolled back, and my pals who anchor say they’ll give up the game before giving up the long putter. Bifurcation is the imperfect answer we’re looking for, and 2013 might be the year we decide.”
That same editorial indicated that in a recent Golfdigest.com survey, “almost 40 percent of respondents are indicating that golfers who use the anchored method will continue putting that way past the 2016 rules change, and almost half favor a different set of rules for amateurs than for pros”.
I have to be honest. Before November 29, I couldn’t even spell bifurcation. It was nowhere on my radar, but the anchoring topic has been so polarizing that it has brought bifurcation to the forefront. Never in my wildest imagination, and probably the USGA’s, did we ever see a day when the likes of Finchem, Fay and Tarde would be speaking bifurcation.
For centuries golfers have all played by the same set of rules. This is now threatened because golf’s ruling bodies don’t like the way the anchored stroke looks and they say it violates the integrity of the intended swing. And, oh yeah, banning anchoring is now about protecting the difficulty of the game- as if the game isn’t hard enough now for most recreational players? Ask the lapsed and beginning players their thoughts on golf’s difficulty.
The most practical fix in my opinion is to have the USGA and R&A drop the proposed ban on anchoring. If this is done, the bifurcation waters calm down unless the ruling bodies tackle limiting the distance that the golf ball travels. That promises to be the next hot topic and, quite frankly, that could lead to the biggest revolution in the 600 year history of golf.
Sadly, anchoring has become a personal issue for many who use the technique. Tim Clark has been a successful Tour player for 16 years. He has been forced to anchor the putter all of his professional life due to a physical problem with his wrists. In the past three months, Clark has had many sleepless nights worrying how he will support his family after 2016 if the anchoring ban is imposed. Admittedly, he has started thinking about a second career. Clark feels that his successful career has been tarnished by the anchoring proposal.
According to a recent article in GolfWorld, The USGA has a $274 million investment portfolio. USGA President Glen Nager, an accomplished attorney with the Washington D.C. based law firm of Jones Day has said, “It’s there so that when we have to make a move when somebody challenges us, we have the resources to defeat them, to put it bluntly. And, if someone wants to take us on, we are prepared to take them on.”
But, what about a guy like Mike Coombs from Greenwood, IN? He is a 9 handicapper in his mid-sixties who was forced to anchor a long putter several years ago after a chronic case of the yips (missing short putts). Will Coombs even continue to play if he loses that opportunity to use the anchored putter? Will his buddies label him a cheater? There are thousands of recreational golfers like Coombs all over the world. They are the real victims in the anchoring firestorm. Tour players represent less than one percent of the world’s golfers.
Bifurcation seems to be the only rational solution to the most perplexing quandary golf has faced in recent times. From my seat, I can only hope that this ninety day comment period has truly caused golf’s ruling bodies to take a step back and analyze the effects.
In my opinion, it will be better for the game to see Tim Clark holing a 20-footer to win a major than to see golf have two sets of rules. But, if the ban is imposed at the elite level then Mike Coombs should be allowed to compete in the senior club championship at The Legends GC anchoring his long putter. Golf cannot afford to lose the Mike Coombs of the world.
The USGA and R&A certainly have a tough job in administering the rules. This is not a popularity contest.  Hopefully, the comment period has been meaningful and the ruling bodies are listening.
If the proposed ban on anchoring is dropped, bifurcation probably goes away and that’s the best thing for golf.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16- McGinley Story

As I sat in my office on Tuesday and tried to catch up on a few things, the Golf Channel had my full attention as Ryder Cup Europe announced Paul McGinley as its 2014 Captain for the matches played at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland. I have to admit that was pretty satisfying to sit back in Franklin, IN and watch the festivities from across the world in Abu Dhabi and know that in some way I had influenced what was happening.
When Tom Watson was announced as the U.S. Captain last month, lots of people were scrambling with thoughts on how the Euros would counter. Darren Clarke took his name out of contention because he “didn’t want to stand on the stage next to Tom Watson.”
Conversely, Colin Montgomerie relished the opportunity. On Sunday night he said, “I’ve never canvassed, as I didn’t last time. I’ve not spoken to anybody about this. But, I’ve always felt that, if I am asked, I would do it and that’s still the case. Darren Clarke has made comments regarding the Tom Watson scenario and this meeting will contain the words ‘Tom Watson’ in it- I don’t think at the last two Corey Pavin and Davis Love were mentioned.”
Ryder Cup Europe assembles about a dozen people every couple of years and hashes out its choice on a Captain. The committee is made up of current and former European Tour players as well as international golf officials. On the other hand, the PGA of America committee consists of three Officers with the President taking the dominant role in the process.
McGinley supposedly beat out a group that included Montgomerie, Sandy Lyle and Miguel Angel-Jimenez. The committee met in Abu Dhabi and took about an hour to make what was called a unanimous decision. McGinley’s selection was aided by last minute Tweets from the likes of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, who all endorsed the first Irish born European Ryder Cup captain.
Not that the Captains ever hit a shot in Ryder Cup play, but McGinley’s playing record pales in comparison with Watson’s. McGinley has won four professional events while Watson has turned the trick 70 times. Watson has eight major championships and McGinley zero. Watson had a 10-4-1 Ryder Cup record while McGinley was 2-2-5.
In addition, Watson was a five time Player of the Year and leading money winner on the PGA Tour. Watson is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. McGinley was never a player of the year, never won a money title and his only trip to the World Golf Hall of Fame will be as a visitor. And how about this? Watson at 5’9” and 175 lbs. will tower over McGinley, a mere 5’7” tall weighing 160 lbs.    
So why McGinley? Give credit to the Euros. They stuck with a system that has produced seven Ryder Cup victories in their last nine tries. McGinley has been an assistant captain on the past few victorious European teams and had success as the winning captain in the Seve Trophy matches. McGinley is likeable, humble and popular with players. He was gleeful at Tuesday’s announcement.
“I am relishing the thought of taking on one of my great heroes, Tom Watson. He’s not only a wonderful person, but a great ambassador for the game of golf. I’ve never had an opportunity to go up against him in a playing sense. To go up against him in a captaincy sense will be a real thrill for me,” said McGinley.
I’m not letting McGinley’s pleasant nature suck me into thinking that the U.S. has any intangible advantage with an icon like Watson as captain. However, when you consider that nine of the past thirteen Ryder Cups have been decided by two points or less and that seven of those were decided by a point or less- maybe old Tom can make a difference.
“Tom Watson was the right man for the job,” said Sam Torrance, former Euro Ryder Cup Captain. “He was a fantastic appointment and they (U.S.) needed to change something. No one could compete against the likes of Tom Watson. But, we are not competing against Tom Watson- it’s the two teams.”
When I got up early Tuesday morning there was already an email for me from Watson who is in Hawaii for this week’s Champions Tour event. “Ted, please call me when you know the Euro’s selection for their Captain.”
So, Watson got yet another call from me mid-afternoon on Tuesday. It was a very brief exchange. The baton went from Abu Dhabi to Franklin to Hawaii. Seconds later Watson released the following Tweet, “Congrats to Paul McGinley on your R/C Captaincy. Looking forward to our future competition. You’re a class act.”    
The PGA of America congratulates Paul McGinley as Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain. I will never forget the scene at The Belfry when Paul holed a putt on the 18th hole to halve Jim Furyk, which won the Ryder Cup for Europe and his subsequent celebratory dive into the neighboring pond.
Images of an emotional Paul with the Irish flag wrapped around his body are something I will always remember. I join my friends across the Atlantic in preparing for what should be one of the greatest chapters in Ryder Cup history.
Franklin is closer to Scotland than it is Abu Dhabi. Tuesday it all seemed real close….. again.