As the countdown to the 113th U.S. Open reaches the final stages, the excitement is building for golf fans around the world. Thoughts will be fully focused on what will prove to be an action packed four days of golf from the world’s best. Those wanting to find a potential winner in the field will no doubt be interested to hear my thoughts on ten players to follow this week, that article will be available to view tomorrow. However this article is an opportunity to reflect on three of the potential big storylines on and off the course this week.
The anchored putter saga rolls on
Confirmation of the rules change by the game’s governing bodies which will prohibit anchoring the putter under Rule 14-1b from 2016 has failed to mark an end to the debate. Realistically, any decision to go ahead with the ban was going to lead to a continuation of the debate and controversy in some quarters regarding this issue. Much will be made this week of the fact in 2016, should the PGA Tour decide not to enforce the anchored putter ban, players who anchor the putter will be required to adopt a different putting method for this event. Tim Finchem has remained tight-lipped about whether the PGA Tour will indeed opt not to implement Rule 14-1b. Based on previous comments it seems likely that will indeed be the stance they will take and one would hope that any announcement is not made this week.
My own view is that firstly, this issue should have been dealt with a long time ago in a proactive manner instead of the reactive manner in which it has been handled now. Secondly, I feel you should swing all the clubs you use in golf and the putter shouldn’t be an exception, golf is a game of hand and eye co-ordination and anchoring the putter detracts from that in my opinion. Additionally , though it is a myth that players who anchor the putter gain an advantage on the field, it is true that a number of players have gained a significant advantage in their own games by switching to the anchored putter after struggling with the conventional putter. Finally, I do think that ultimately any legal challenge to the ban will be unsuccessful and the nine players involved in this potential legal challenge would be better advised following the stance taken by Ernie Els and preparing for the ban by switching to a conventional putter or perhaps utilising a long putter the way Matt Kuchar does, which doesn’t involve anchoring
Does golf need speeding up?
In contrast to the actions over the anchored putter, very little action is being taken to reinforce and perhaps strengthen the stance on slow play. This is particularly the case on the PGA Tour where slow play seems endemic and little is being done to counteract it by the on course officials apart from the odd warning and putting players on the clock (but only loosely). The issue was firmly thrust into the spotlight at The Masters when Guan Thianlang was penalised for slow play, the official who made that call was a European Tour official, John Parrymore, who also penalised Ross Fisher at last years Welsh Open. It was a harsh decision but Guan was taking a lot of time over shots and had it been any other player the call wouldn’t have been questioned but why is nothing done more regularly with other culprits. Outside of the majors, the last player to be penalised in America with a shot deduction for slow was Glen Day in 1995.
At last year’s U.S. Open, eventual winner Webb Simpson was put on the clock for slow play with 7 holes of his final round to play and despite the fact his play did not appear to speed up he received no stroke penalty. Jim Furyk was also fortunate not to be put on the clock in that final round during which he received a number of warnings to speed up. Clearly, nobody would like to see a major championship or any tournament being decided by a player getting a stroke penalty but it is clear that certain players seem to be consistently flouting the slow play rules. PGA Tour officials will no doubt point out that slow play doesn’t go unpunished, financial penalties are imposed on players who are deemed to the infringing slow play rules. However, fining a player a few thousand dollars is unlikely to change behaviours given the size of tournament purses now, it is time that a tougher stance on slow play was taken on all tours.
Tiger’s quest for his 15th major.
This week will be the 16th major championship he has competed in since his 2008 U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines, by far his longest gap between major championship wins. His victory at Sawgrass last month confirmed that his game is its best shape since 2009 when he let a 54 hole lead in a major slip for the first time his career at Hazeltine. The significance of his win at Sawgrass as it was his first win since his personal issues of late 2009 that wasn’t on a course where he has multiple wins, with 4 wins to his name this year he has continued the progression he showed last year when he got 3 early season wins.
Tiger has been quick to say that he is not unduly focusing on winning his 15th majors, stating after his win at Sawgrass that he is focused on playing well every time he tees it up and the records will take care of themselves. This is a definite contrast to his comments last year when he spoke publicly about his desire for better results in majors and the frustration at not achieving these, it is a clear sign of his confidence that he has the game to win more majors once again. Tiger’s game is at a point where he can win on any course, this is largely due to this putting game being as sharp it was in his pomp of 2000-2003. That said Merion is a very tight course and it doesn’t look on paper to suit Tiger’s game so I would surprised to see him win this week
- Golf Adopts Rule to Ban Anchored Putting Stroke (abcnews.go.com)
- On eve of U.S. Open at Merion, remembering Saxonburg’s Simons (triblive.com)
- Tour backspin: Putter ruling comes Tuesday (utsandiego.com)
- U.S. Open: A fan’s guide, story lines and players to watch (sacbee.com)
- Golf adopts rule to ban anchored putting stroke (bnd.com)
- A Contentious Year in Golf (theepochtimes.com)
- Anchoring: Reaction from the world of golf (golfweek.com)
- USGA, R&A ban anchored putters starting in 2016 (cbssports.com)
- PGA Tour should ignore the USGA’s ban on anchored putters (azcentral.com)
- New Rule Bans Golfers From Anchoring Long Putters Against Their Bodies (newyork.cbslocal.com)