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Golf notebook: PGA Tour opposes ban of anchored putters

The SportsXchange

--Commissioner Tim Finchem said on Sunday that the PGA Tour has informed the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews that it opposes the proposed ban of anchored putters.

The USGA and R&A announced on Nov. 28 that they planned to outlaw putters anchored to a player's body as of the 2016 season, but allowed for a 90-day discussion period, which ends on Thursday.

"Essentially where the PGA Tour came down was that they did not think that banning anchoring was in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour," Finchem said on the final day of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana, Ariz.

"I think there are a number of factors here ... but I think the essential thread that went through the thinking of the players and our board of directors and others that looked at this was that in the absence of data or any basis to conclude that there is a competitive advantage to be gained by using anchoring, and given the amount of time that anchoring has been in the game, that there was no overriding reason to go down that road."

Finchem, who said the decision was reached after he held conference calls with members of the PGA Tour Policy Board and the Players Advisory Council earlier in the week, added that the PGA of America and the National Golf Course Owners Association also oppose the ban.

Should the USGA and the R&A, who oversee the Rules of Golf, go through with the proposed ban, Finchem said the PGA has not determined its next move.

"Our regulations provide that we will follow the rules as promulgated by the USGA provided, however, we retain the right not to in certain instances if we see fit," Finchem said.

"But we have not even begun that discussion. All we've done is done what we were asked to do, which is to give them our best input and advice on that particular initiative. That's a different question, and it would be speculative for me to guess where that might come out."

Keegan Bradley and others who use anchored putters have indicated they might seek legal action if the ban is implemented.

--Ellen Port, who has won five United States Golf Association championships, has been selected as captain of the United States Curtis Cup team for the 2014 matches at St. Louis Country Club.

Port, 51, who played in the 1994 and 1996 Curtis Cups, teaches physical education and coaches golf at John Burroughs School in St. Louis.

"It's an honor and privilege to serve the USGA, my future players and the game that I've grown to love as the captain of the 2014 USA Curtis Cup Team," Port said.

"It's an added bonus to have the venue in my hometown, at a club that is so rich in golf history and tradition."

The Curtis Cup is a biennial event which matches the top amateurs from the U.S. against those from Great Britain and Ireland.

Port is the reigning U.S. Senior Women's Amateur champion and also has captured the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur Championship four times. She won eight Missouri Women's Amateur titles and holds membership in the Missouri and St. Louis sports halls of fame.

The U.S. leads the series, 27-7-3, but Great Britain and Ireland won in 2012 at Nairn, Scotland.

St. Louis Country Club, a Charles Blair Macdonald design, will celebrate its centennial in 2014.

--Mariah Stackhouse, who will turn 19 next month, is only a freshman at Stanford and already has tied one of Tiger Woods' school records.

Stackhouse, from Riverdale, Ga., shot 10-under-par 61 last week at Stanford Golf Course to win the Peg Bernard Invitational by 10 strokes over Regina DeGuzman of San Jose State and Demi Runas of UC Davis.

Her score equaled the Stanford record for all golfers set by Woods while winning the 1996 Pacific-10 Conference Championship and equaled by Cameron Wilson last year.

Stackhouse, who shot 9-under 26 on the front nine, also set an NCAA women's record, breaking the mark of 63 by Emily Tubert of Arkansas in 2010 and equaled by Grace Na of Pepperdine last year.

"After I had the eagle on No. 7, honestly it was like I was a spectator watching myself," said Stackhouse, who captured the Georgia 4A High School Individual Championship four times. "I was just kind of like, 'What is going on?'

"I knew one day I was going to have an epic front nine. Would I be nervous? But it was just so much fun. ... On No. 9 and No. 7, I was like, 'Man you've been making putts all day, it would be funny if this went in.' And then it went in again and I was like, 'Well, cool.'

"It's actually ironic, because the front nine is my least favorite nine."

Stackhouse carded an eagle on the first hole and followed with three birdies in a span of four holes to get to 5-under through five holes.

Then she holed a 40-foot putt for eagle at No. 7 and after making another birdie at No. 8, she drained a tricky, downhill birdie putt from 30 feet to close out her brilliant 26, which is one stroke lower than the best nine-hole score in PGA Tour history.

Stackhouse birdied No. 12 before making bogeys at Nos. 13 and 14, when she showed her first sign of nerves by missing a two-foot putt for par, but then finished strong with birdies at Nos. 16 and 17.

"The one thing that really separates Mariah, at least right now, is her demeanor," Stanford coach Anne Walker said. "She is really able to focus on whatever shot she is hitting at that moment.

"When you shoot 10 under, which few people ever have, you really have to be able to stay in the present. For her to go bogey-bogey and then jump back with birdie-birdie tells me she was absolutely in the moment on every shot."

Stackhouse also equaled the Stanford course record of 61, set by Rob Grube in 2008 and equaled by David Chung in 2010. She broke the women's course record of 63 set by sophomore teammate Mariko Tumangan last year.

--Bo Van Pelt and Mark Wilson have been elected co-chairmen of the Player Advisory Council by the PGA Tour membership for the 2013 season.

The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the PGA Tour Policy Board and Commissioner Tim Finchem on issues concerning the tour.

Van Pelt and Wilson will succeed Paul Goydos and Steve Stricker on the PGA Tour Policy Board in 2014 and will serve three-year terms (2014-2016) as Player Directors, joining Jim Furyk (2012-2014) and Harrison Frazar (2013-2015) on the Policy Board.

Van Pelt, who resides in Tulsa, Okla., is a 1998 graduate of Oklahoma State whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2009 U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.

Wilson, of Elmhurst, Ill., is a 1997 graduate of North Carolina who has won five times on the PGA Tour, most recently the 2012 Humana Challenge.

Serving on the PAC for 2013 are Van Pelt, Wilson, Aaron Baddeley, Jason Bohn, Andres Gonzales, Jeff Gove, Charley Hoffman, Doug LaBelle II, Scott Langley, Davis Love III, Joe Ogilvie, Geoff Ogilvy, Ryan Palmer, Webb Simpson, Brendan Steele and Kevin Streelman.

--The International Olympic Committee has been officially notified about an ongoing legal dispute over the ownership of the site in Rio de Janeiro were the planned 2016 Olympic golf course is to be built.

A court official visited the hotel where IOC officials were staying to have the president of the coordination commission for the 2016 Games, Nawal El Moutawakel, sign the order notifying her and the IOC of the dispute.

" ... I received documents in my hotel which I was unable to understand, I was unable to read because they were in Portuguese," El Moutawakel said. "We have passed on all of these documents to our lawyers in Lausanne (Switzerland, home of the IOC) for translation and that's all I can tell you at the moment regarding this question."

The IOC and 2016 Rio committee have known about the issue, but downplayed it as golf prepares to make its return to the Games for the first time in since 1904 in St. Louis.

The IOC's coordination commission is making its first official visit of the year to Rio, and the fourth since the city won the bid to host the Olympic Games in 2009.

There has been a long legal dispute over the land that is claimed by two companies. Local organizers have guarantees from the businessman who says he is the owner, but a judge has said that any contracts made over the land eventually will be deemed illegal and nullified if the court ruling goes against him.

Construction of the course was expected to start in October, but has been delayed by issues not related to the legal case, according to organizers.

Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio said the work on the course, designed by architect Gil Hanse, will begin as soon as the needed environmental licenses are secured, which he expects to happen soon.

--The Tampa Bay Championship at Innisbrook Resort is only two weeks away, but still is without a title sponsor for this year and beyond.

Transitions pulled out as title sponsor after last year's tournament, which is part of the Florida Swing on the PGA Tour.

The Copperheads, the volunteer group community leaders in the Tampa Bay area that manages the event, is funding this year's tournament along with the PGA Tour.

The tournament, which has been played since 2000, might not be able to continue without a title sponsor in 2014.

"In fact I've been on the phone all morning talking to some groups about the 2013 tournament," tournament director Kevin Krisle said one day last week. "This remains a great stop on the PGA tour, one that we're fortunate to be a part of, one that everyone wants to keep going. ...

"And we look forward to the day when we can announce the right partner to move this thing forward."

Luke Donald will defend his title on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook on March 14-17.

--Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela had surgery last week to repair damage to a tendon in his left shoulder and could miss the rest of the 2013 season.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Richard Hawkins at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Greenville, S.C. Hawkins has operated on many prominent athletes, including Greg Norman.

Vegas took to Twitter one day after the operation to claim it was a "total success." He spent one night in the hospital before returning to his home in Houston to recuperate.

"I feel like a had to put an end to this problem because it was affecting my game. I'm going to work hard to come back stronger than ever," Vegas tweeted. "Thanks for your kind support. I will miss you guys. :)"

Vegas had played in three events this year and missed the cut in each one. He hopes to return when the 2013-14 season, the first wrap-around schedule in PGA Tour history, begins in October.

The 28-year-old Venezuelan captured the 2011 Bob Hope Classic as a rookie on the PGA Tour and took the opportunity to call out President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela for closing golf courses in the country.
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