Golf roundup: Champions Tour members discuss proposed putter rule change

Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

--While not much news came out of it, much was made of the meeting Executive Director Mike Davis of the United States Golf Association had with members of the PGA Tour earlier this month about the proposed ban of anchored putters.
Not much has been said about what the ban would do on the Champions Tour, although the impact might be even greater to the senior circuit.
Members of the Champions Tour Player Advisory Council meeting last week before the Allianz Championship to discuss the possible ban, which could be announced at the end of this month.
"They said that's why I'm there," said Michael Allen, the only member of the 13-player Champions Tour PAC that uses a long putter, although statistics show that nearly one in five players on the circuit use anchored putters.
According to officials at the meeting, which lasted about an hour, 18 percent of Champions Tour players use a belly or long putter.
It's interesting to note that two of those are Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples, among the tour's biggest starts, and in fact two of the three players featured on the cover of the 2013 Champions Tour media guide.
"I would certainly try (to putt) another way," Langer said of what he might do if the USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews ban anchored putters, as they have indicated they will do.
"It depends on what happens and we're still in the question phase, but if I don't enjoy the game anymore then I would stop playing."
The day after Davis' meeting with PGA Tour players at Torrey Pines, Commissioner Tim Finchem left open the possibility that his tour might be open to a bifurcation of the Rules of Golf, but said it was unlikely in this case.
Some members of the Champions Tour seem open to the idea.
"I would hate to break away from what the PGA Tour does, but yeah. I probably would (be in favor of bifurcation on the senior circuit)," said Peter Jacobsen, a member of the Champions Tour PAC.
"To keep people like Langer, a Hall of Fame superstar and one of the best people I've ever met, to keep him playing. Michael Allen, Fred Couples, go down the list. I want these guys playing. We probably could (bifurcate)."
The Champions Tour already exercises a level of bifurcation with the PGA Tour, especially by allowing players to use golf carts during rounds.
Others are against the Champions Tour going its own way.
"I don't think we would (bifurcate)," Brad Faxon said. "That would be a mistake for us to do something different. It's a hot topic, especially out here. But the hardest thing to do is to get a rational, non-biased opinion on what is best for the game and what is best for the tour. ...
"Who really has the best interest of the game? That's where we have to leave governing away from us."
Champions Tour officials planned to survey its members in order to get a consensus opinion on the situation.
--By announcing the addition of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship and U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball Championship, which will begin in 2015, the United States Golf Association might have been trying to soften the pushback from eliminating the men's and women's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championships after 2014.
The USGA made both announcements simultaneously.
"It wasn't without a lot of thought," said Tom O'Toole, chairman of the USGA's championship committee, on the Golf Channel. "We're not in the business of canceling championships, so this is a somber note.
"But the mission of those Public Links Championships, the men's (inaugurated) in 1922 and the women's in 1977, no longer served that original purpose or mission. So it was the decision of the committee that we'd go in a different direction at this time and retire those championships, and really for the next two years celebrate them with great flair and flavor because they've been a great fiber of what the USGA has been about ... ."
The men's Publinx was the USGA's fourth-oldest championship, dating to 1922.
Among the winners of those tournaments are Tim Clark (1997), Trevor Immelman (1998), Michelle Wie (2003), Brandt Snedeker (2003) and Ryan Moore (2002 and 2004).
Reaction from pros who played in those events was swift, in this day of social media, as several of them took to Twitter. Here is a sampling of what they said:
Arron Oberholser: "Ok, so lemme get this straight, you're adding 4-ball (cool) but getting rid of the championship for which your organization stands." And later, sarcastically, "USGA to "retire" US AM comp in favor of husband/wife "nine & dine". Winner receives 2 for 1 Waffle House passes Masters week. LOL."
Brendan Steele, who already is not happy with the USGA because he uses a belly putter: "USGA makes another bad decision by getting rid of the US Pub Links. Keep it going guys. See what else you can ruin."
Keegan Bradley, another guy with the belly putter: "Really sorry to hear that the public links will be cancelled in 2014. It's a great tournament for game. Very surprised. Replaced by 4ball?"
The Four-Ball Championships will be two-person team competitions played annually between mid-March and late May. Each male competitor must have a USGA handicap index of 5.4 or lower, while women need indexes of 14.4 of lower.
There is no age requirement for eligibility, and the partners need not be from the same club, state or country.
The fields for the men's and women's events will consist of 128 and 64 teams, respectively, with 32 teams advancing to match play after 36 holes of stroke play.
"To bring that popular event to a national championship context seemed like a perfect fit," O'Toole said.
As for the Publinx, this is the first time the USGA has eliminated an event. The Masters thought so much of the Men's Pulbinx that the winner received an invitation to the first major of the year.
--Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden left Pebble Beach believing that he was out of the WGC-World Match Play Championship by the slimmest of margins on Sunday.
The top 64 players in the World Golf Rankings earn berths in the match-play event, but Phil Mickelson had already said he wasn't going to play in the event at Desert Mountain, so No. 65 would get the opportunity to play No. 1 Rory McIlroy in the first round.
Jacobson had to finish solo seventh or better in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in order to pass Shane Lowry of Ireland and he was sitting alone in seventh late in the day after closing with a 5-under-par 67.
Patrick Reed, one stroke behind and trying to catch him, pulled his drive onto the sand and nearly into the Pacific Ocean on Pebble's famed 18th hole. However, he was able to hit his ball back onto the fairway, reached the green in regulation and holed a 12-foot birdie putt to tie for seventh.
That left Jacobson at 66th in the rankings, .0002 points behind Lowry, and seemingly on the outside looking in at the Accenture.
However, two days later Brandt Snedeker announced that he would not play in the match-play event, putting Jacobson in the field and a first-round match with McIlroy.
"There's a lot of points to play for," Jacobson said. "Any week if you play well or have a really good week, you're going to make a jump. Obviously, a week where you're getting a chance to play it's going to make a difference.
"It's another opportunity. It's a good time in the year for me to get to play quite a bit of golf."
Jacobson needs to play well this week and next, in the Honda Classic, to climb into the top 50 in the rankings and qualify for the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.
Then he must stay there to earn a spot in the Masters in April.
--Jonathan Byrd, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour who underwent surgery on his left wrist on Oct. 29, hopes to return to the circuit next month for the Tampa Bay Championship.
The 35-year-old Byrd, who was the PGA Tour's Rookie of the Year in 2002, began hitting balls off a tee a few weeks ago.
"You never hear anyone say, 'Rush it, don't miss a tournament, get back,'" Byrd said on the "Morning Drive" show on the Golf Channel. "I talked to Tom Watson, and he said, 'Wait till you're ready, and then wait another month. It takes a while before the belief comes back.'
"This is the longest break I've had from golf since 10th grade, so it's hard to watch the season start. It's difficult to watch everyone go to work."
Byrd had his surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York done by Dr. Andrew Weiland, who has performed similar surgeries on Luke Donald and Jim Furyk.
The operation was performed the day before Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast and Byrd's wife, Amanda, had to run down the street to a pharmacy in 40-50 mph winds to get his medication.
Byrd is best known for making a hole in one with a 6-iron from 204 yards on the fourth playoff hole to beat Martin Laird and Cameron Percy in the 2010 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital Open at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas.
That's the only time a PGA Tour event has been won with an ace on the final hole.
--K.J. Choi has been chosen by the Golf Writers Association of America to receive the Charlie Bartlett Award, which honors a professional golfer for unselfish contributions for the betterment of society.
The 42-year-old Choi, who was born in Wando, South Korea, and lives in Southlake, Texas, founded the K.J. Choi Foundation in 2007 to help children and communities break the cycle of hopelessness and achieve their dreams.
Among the foundation's functions are providing college scholarship money and global aid for hurricane and tsunami victims.
"I would like to thank all of those who have supported me," said Choi, who has won 20 times around the world during his career. "Without them, I would never have been able to be in a position to be helping others. Although I feel that I haven't done that much, I am honored to be recognized for my actions.
"This is the first award of any sort that I have received during my 13-year career on the PGA Tour and I feel that much honored to be receiving an award for my charitable actions rather than my play."
After Choi captured the 2011 Players Championship, the biggest victory of his career, he donated $200,000 of his paycheck to victims of the tornadoes that hit the southeastern United States that year.
Choi will be honored April 10 at the GWAA Annual Awards Dinner in Augusta, Ga.

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