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Golf Roundup: Belly putters might go belly up

The SportsXchange

Speculation is mounting that before the end of the year, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the United States Golf Association will ban long putters, if they are anchored to a player's body.

Keegan Bradley, for one, isn't going to give up his without a fight.

"I'm going to do whatever I have to do to protect myself and the other players on Tour," Bradley told Golfweek.

"I look at it as a whole, as us all together. I don't look at it as much about myself. I think that for them to ban this after we've done what we've done is unbelievable."

At the 2011 PGA Championship, Bradley became the first player to claim a major while anchoring a putter, beating Jason Dufner in a playoff at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Three of the past five major winners have used a putter that is longer than standard length, all of them anchored.

Ernie Els, who captured the Open Championship in July using a belly putter, for much of his career claimed that the long wands should be outlawed, but he seems to have changed his mind.

"They're going to have a couple of legal matters coming their way," Els said. "It's going to be a bit of an issue now. I've been against it, but since I've been using it, it still takes a lot of practice, and you have to perfect your own way of putting with this belly."

Even though the ban is expected to be announced this year, it is believed that golf's powers that be will give players until 2016 to conform.

If the long putters are banned, the matter is expected to wind up in court.

--Perhaps the biggest change on the PGA Tour season next year will be the Mayakoba Golf Classic moving from its February slot opposite the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship to a fall date all its own.

The Mayakoba will join with the four events in what has been the Fall Series to make up the beginning to the 2013-14 FedEx Cup Season.

"We are extremely pleased with the continued stability and strength of the PGA Tour schedule," commissioner Tim Finchem said in releasing the 2013 schedule.

"While the upcoming season is unique in that our traditional fall tournaments are shifting to the start of the 2013-2014 season, we are very excited about the upcoming change that will establish a definitive end to the PGA Tour season at the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola."

In another change, the Valero Texas Open moves from two weeks after the Masters to immediately before the first major of the year, which will be played April 11-14.

Also, the one-week break during the FedEx Cup playoffs will come after the second event, the Deutsche Bank Championship. Previously, the off week was the week after the third event of the playoffs, the BMW Championship.

There will be another week off between the Tour Championship, which will be played Sept. 19-22 at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, and the Presidents Cup, which will be held Oct. 3-6 at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.

In addition, there will be an increase in FedEx Cup points distribution for the three opposite-field events, the Puerto Rico Open, the True South Classic and the Reno-Tahoe Open -- tournaments held concurrently with WGC events and the Open Championship. The winners of the opposite-field events will earn 300 points, 50 more than in the past.

The season will begin with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii, on Jan. 4-7, featuring a Monday finish.

--When the PGA Tour makes its annual stop at Walt Disney World next year as part of the start to the 2013-14 season, it will do so without Children's Miracle Network Hospitals as title sponsor.

The organization will end its association with the tournament after this week's event following a six-year run, leaving tournament officials looking for new backing.

"We got involved in the Classic to help us generate awareness, and it's been great for that," said Craig Sorensen, CMN Hospitals chief concept officer.

"We've had some changes in our organization in terms of budget and some direction. ... We're really focusing on how we can best increase fundraising, so we've reallocated our resources into other things to help us increase fundraising for our hospitals."

Sorensen added that the move will not affect Children's Miracle Network's longstanding relationship with Walt Disney World, site of its annual telethon, and the organization is exploring the possibility a lesser role with the tournament and/or the PGA Tour.

The new PGA Tour schedule eliminates the Fall Series, of which the Disney event was the final tournament, marking the official end of the season.

The 2013-14 schedule is expected to begin with the Frys.com Open near San Jose, followed by the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, with the Disney tournament expected to be slotted between fourth and sixth in the lineup.

--Germany will host the Solheim Cup for the first time in 2015 at St. Leon-Rot golf course near Frankfurt, the Ladies European Tour announced in Denham, England.

St. Leon-Rot has previously hosted the European Tour's Deutsche Bank SAP Open, which Tiger Woods won three times.

"I can't wait for Germany to host the 2015 Solheim Cup," said Sandra Gal of Germany, who helped Europe win the Solheim Cup last year at Killeen Castle in County Meath, Ireland.

The Solheim Cup matches, which are contested every two years, will be played at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo., next year.

The United States leads the series, 8-4.

--Only days after stories began to circulate that Nike was wooing Rory McIlroy with a mega-bucks contract, the 23-year-old two-time major champion and Titleist announced that they would part ways after this year.

McIlroy, who established himself as the No. 1 player in the world this season and the heir to Tiger Woods' throne, has been with Titleist since he turned pro five years ago.

"I would like to thank Wally Uihlein and all of the tour staff and employees at Titleist and FootJoy for everything they have done for me since I turned professional in 2007," McIlroy said in a statement.

"I have enjoyed five very exciting and successful years with the company and I will always appreciate the contribution Titleist has made in helping me become the player I am today."

Said Uihlein, chief executive officer of Acushnet, parent company of Titleist/FootJoy: "We wish Rory all the best. He has been a great ambassador."

Fox Sports reported that McIlroy has agreed to a 10-year contract with Nike that could be worth as much as $250 million, but none of the parties concerned would confirm that it is a done deal.

The report also claimed that McIlroy already has filmed his first Nike commercial with Woods, Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley.

During his recent 18-hole exhibition match against Woods in China, McIlroy grabbed one of Woods' Nike clubs and took a few practice swings, only fueling the speculation.

However, not everyone is convinced this is the right move for McIlroy.

"I call it dangerous," said six-time major winner Nick Faldo, a commentator for NBC and the Golf Channel. "I've changed clubs and changed equipment, and every manufacturer will say, 'We can copy your clubs, we can tweak the golf ball so it fits you.'

"But there's feel and sound as well, and there's confidence. You can't put a real value on that, it's priceless."

McIlroy has gone through a series of changes in the last year, leaving agent Chubby Chandler of International Sports Management and signing with Conor Ridge of Irish-based Horizon Sports Management.

McIlroy also rejoined the PGA Tour and led the money list. He leads the European Tour's Race to Dubai, essentially its money list, and he's trying to duplicate the feat of Luke Donald, who last year became the first to finish on top of both charts in the same season.

The Euro Tour season ends with the DP Dubai World Championship on Nov. 22-25.

--Constellation Energy has signed a five-year contract extension with the Champions Tour to remain as title sponsor of the Constellation Senior Players Championship through 2017.

The event is one of five major tournaments on the Champions Tour and will be played for a second consecutive season at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh on a mid-summer date in 2013 yet to be announced.

"The Constellation Senior Players Championship is one of the premiere events on the Champions Tour, a tournament that consistently features exceptional golf and also generates significant contributions to worthy charitable institutions," said Kenneth W. Cornew, chief executive officer and president of Constellation and executive vice president of Exelon, Constellation's parent company.

"We're excited to be looking ahead to the 2013 tournament at the wonderful venue at Fox Chapel, and to five more years of championship golf."

Constellation has been a title sponsor on the Champions Tour since 2003 and title sponsor of the Senior Players Championship since 2007.

Since 1992, the tournament has generated more than $8 million for charity. In 2012, the First Tee of Pittsburgh was the primary charitable beneficiary of the Constellation Senior Players Championship.

"Constellation has been a valuable partner and tremendous supporter of the Champions Tour since 2003 and has played an integral role in helping the Senior Players positively impact the communities in which the tournament has been staged since 2007," Champions Tour president Mike Stevens said.

"With the extension of Constellation as title sponsor and Fox Chapel Golf Club as host venue, the Constellation Senior Players will continue its positive influence throughout Western Pennsylvania and maintain its prestigious position on the Champions Tour schedule, a major championship."

In July, Joe Daley claimed his first victory on the Champions Tour when he held off Tom Lehman to win at Fox Chapel.

--For the second consecutive year, a 14-year-old from China will play in one of golf's four majors.

Guan Tianlang made a scrambling par on the final hole to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship by one stroke over Pan Cheng-Tsung of Taiwan in Bangkok, Thailand, becoming the youngest player to qualify for the Masters.

"I'm so excited," said Guan, who captured the 11-12 division at the Junior Worlds in San Diego two years ago. "I'm really happy to become the youngest player at the Masters and looking forward to going there.

"I don't know what's going to happen there, but I know I just want to do well."

Unable to reach the par-4 finishing hole in two, Guan chipped to within 5 feet and made the putt to save his par, closing with a 1-under-par 71 at Amata Spring Country Club.

Pan, a sophomore at the University of Washington, earned a berth in the 2013 British Open.

Guan, an eighth-grader who weighs 125 pounds, in April will become the youngest player in the first major of the year at Augusta National. Matteo Manassero of Italy was barely short of his 17th birthday when he played in the 2010 Masters.

Andy Zhang, 14, of China qualified for the U.S. Open last summer.
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