Golf roundup: PGA of America opposes new putter rules

Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

--Should the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews follow through on their plans to ban anchored putters, there has been much speculation that the PGA Tour might go its own way on the matter.
However, it turns out that the PGA of America might be the organization most likely to make a move to bifurcation.
"We feel the USGA and R&A have underestimated the impact and ramifications that Rule 14-1b will have on the overall state of the game," wrote Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America, following the annual PGA Conference of Leaders.
"It has become one of the most divisive issues that modern-day golf has seen. The PGA of America feels that there is no logical reason to proceed with Rule 14-1b."
While the PGA of America had voiced its opinion against the ban earlier, this is the first time it publicly stated that it might ignore such action taken by the rules-making bodies of golf.
Bishop's response came on the heels of the PGA of Canada's recent statement against the anchoring ban, citing a February survey of members in which 64 percent of respondents were against the proposed rule change.
While golf in the United States is under the jurisdiction of the USGA, golf in Canada is governed by the R&A.
The crucial argument of the PGA of America and the PGA of Canada against the proposed ban is the impact it would have on the recreational golfer, which Bishop emphasized in his response.
"We have serious concerns on how the ban on anchoring could affect the enjoyment of the game by our amateur customers," Bishop wrote. "Over the past few months, I have received dozens of letters from concerned amateurs ... these people are discouraged and frustrated that the anchoring ban will be imposed after they adopted a previously legal method of putting. Most indicate they will play less golf or quit. The game cannot afford this."
" ... There was discussion about the politics and inconsistency that will surface around the country if PGA professionals are mandated by their boards, men's and women's associations, or players to allow anchoring for the enjoyment of recreational amateurs.
"Bifurcation seems destined if Rule 14-1b is implemented."
The R&A and the USGA announced their intentions to ban anchored putters on Nov. 28, and called for a 90-day conversation period in which anyone involved could offer an opinion.
When that period ended on Feb. 28, the rules-making bodies said they would make an announcement on the matter in the spring.
--For Sergio Garcia of Spain, it was only a partial victory in United States Tax Court.
However, the ruling handed down last week could have repercussions for international sports stars who cash in on corporate sponsorship deals, in the opinion of tax professionals.
Garcia has been in a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service for three years over a $1.7 million tax bill dating to 2003 and 2004, relating to an endorsement deal with TaylorMade and its parent company Addidas AG.
Garcia's lawyers argued the money was royalty income from Switzerland, site of his primary residence. Switzerland has a tax treaty with the United States that spares Swiss royalty income from U.S. taxes.
Although he was seeking more, the Tax Court granted Garcia a 65 percent/35 percent split between royalty and service income because Garcia was TaylorMade's only "global icon" during the years at issue.
"Certainly we were disappointed not to have the full 85 percent to 15 percent split," said Thomas Linguanti of law firm Baker & McKenzie, but it was much better than the 50/50 split Retief Goosen of South Africa received in a 2011 Tak Court ruling.
Garcia "was the centerpiece of TaylorMade's marketing," Tax Court Judge Joseph Goeke wrote in a 37-page decision, adding that Garcia's status as an icon was "strong evidence that his TaylorMade endorsement agreement was more heavily weighted toward image rights."
The Tax Court's ruling means that athletes in the future will want companies to write endorsement contracts that will pay them more in royalty fees, said Lewis Taishoff, a tax lawyer in New York.
"Garcia, because he's a persona, it's not what he does on the playing field so much as it is his style," Taishoff said.
The IRS declined to comment on the ruling.
--Meg Mallon, captain of the United States team for the Solheim Cup, selected Laura Diaz as her second assistant captain and in the process put to rest what many people believed was a feud that had been simmering for six years.
Dottie Pepper, selected by Mallon eight months ago as an assistant captain, drew the ire of Diaz and other players on the United States team during the 2007 Solheim Cup, when she blurted out on the air that the Americans were "choking, freaking dogs."
Pepper, who was serving as a Golf Channel analyst, mistakenly thought the telecast had gone to a commercial break, and it appeared her comments were directed at Diaz and playing partner Sherri Steinhauer.
"Life's too short," Mallon said when announcing the addition of Diaz. "I think if they're OK with it, the rest of us are OK with it. I'm happy about it."
Added Diaz: "It's all behind us. We've spoken a lot since then."
Pepper and Diaz grew up in upstate New York and Pepper once dated Diaz' brother, but their relationship seemed to be broken by the incident six years ago in Sweden.
During the summer of 2008, Diaz told reporters how much the comment still hurt her.
"Dottie was (like) a family member to me, and I don't even see her as a friend anymore," Diaz said. "I think that it was a really low blow and highly disappointing, really, because I think that as a golfer you appreciate golf and what we are doing out here.
"It really affected us in our hearts. Sherri and I thought it was ridiculous, really."
When Mallon introduced Diaz during a media conference last week in Phoenix, Pepper also was on hand to show that any hard feelings between the two have been put behind.
Pepper said the relationship began to improve when she and Diaz both did television work during the 2011 Solheim Cup.
"We were in the same compound," Pepper said, who added that there wasn't a watershed moment when the feud became a thing of the past. "We just moved along."
The Solhiem Cup, with the U.S. teamed against the Europeans, will be played Aug. 16-18 at Colorado Golf Club, near Denver.
--Sanderson Farms has stepped up to become title sponsor of the annual PGA Tour event at Annandale Golf Club in Madison, Miss., which was played last year as the True South Classic, and it might enable the event to remain on the PGA Tour schedule long-term.
The Sanderson Farms Championship, with a purse of $3 million, will be played July 18-21 at Annandale under a one-year agreement, with the Laurel, Miss., poultry producer having an option to extend the deal to three years.
"Sanderson is very interested, and they've expressed interest in making this a multi-year agreement," said John Lang, president of Century Club Charities, the nonprofit organization which funds the tournament.
Added John Marovich, the tournament's executive director: "It's a big sense of relief. Having somebody with a longtime presence in Mississippi, (the tournament has) a very bright future."
The only tournament played in Mississippi on the PGA Tour was called the Magnolia State Classic from its inception in 1968 through 1985, then became the Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic from 1986-2006 and was the Viking Classic from 2007-2011.
When Viking Range Corporation dropped its title sponsorship and a new one was not found for more than a year, the future of the tournament was in jeopardy until Sanderson stepped in.
"That will be a subjective evaluation that we'll make after the tournament, but it feels right," Joe Sanderson, an avid golfer and chief executive officer of Sanderson Farms, third-largest poultry producer in the United States, said of a possible long-term deal.
"It's right for our employees and shareholders, and it's certainly right for the charities and the state."
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the tournament has a $22 million economic impact on the Jackson area.
Scott Stallings won the tournament last year.
--Natalie Gulbis withdrew before the start of the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix because she has a case of malaria, according to a statement released by the LPGA Tour.
Gulbis, who withdrew after the first round of the HSBC Women's Champions tournament in Singapore at the beginning of March, is recuperating at home in Las Vegas.
"Natalie originally became ill in Singapore and she was treated and medically cleared to fly home," read a statement released by the LPGA Tour and her management team at IMG. "Natalie continues to be treated at home and is expected to be at full strength in three weeks. Natalie's well-being is a top priority for both the LPGA and IMG, and steps continue to be taken to ensure the well-being of Natalie and all the players on the LPGA Tour now and for future events. LPGA doctors have been consulted and believe she is on appropriate medications, under great care, and her prognosis is excellent."
Gulbis' coach, Butch Harmon, tweeted that she had malaria after she withdrew from the tournament in Singapore, but her agent denied it in an interview with the Golf Channel.
"She's not feeling well," David Livingston, Gulbis' IMG agent, said in an interview. "She does have flu-like symptoms, but, to be clear, she has not been hospitalized and there is no diagnosis of malaria."
Scottsdale Healthcare, founding partner of the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, was on site at the tournament last week in Phoenix to provide draw blood draw for players, caddies and family members wishing to be screened for malaria.
According to the LPGA, Gulbis has been able to practice and expects to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship on the first week in April.
--Mark Mihal of Creve Coeur, Mo., co-founder of, a fantasy golfing website, has played the game long enough to know about hazards.
However, Mihal wasn't ready for the one he found recently in the middle of the 14th fairway while playing a round with his buddies at Annbriar Golf Course in Waterloo, Ill.
The 43-year-old Mihal hit his tee shot down the middle, and after he hit his second shot, he was swallowed up by a sinkhole that was 18 feet deep and 10 feet wide.
"I felt the ground start to collapse, and it happened so fast that I couldn't do anything," said Mihal, who fortunately sustained only a shoulder injury. "I reached for the ground as I was going down and it gave way, too.
"It seemed like I was falling for a long time. The real scary part was I didn't know when I would hit bottom and what I would land on. ... I was standing in the middle of the fairway. Then, all of a sudden, before I knew it, I was underground."
Mihal was looking for a marker in the fairway to check out the distance to the green for his playing partner, Mike Peters, who was getting ready to hit. Peters had his back to Mihal and when he turned to say something to him, his friend was gone.
Peters could hear Mihal moaning and ran in the direction where he had been standing a few seconds earlier.
Mihal's playing partners phoned the clubhouse and course workers brought out a 12-foot ladder, which was too short, but Ed Magaletta, who was in Mihal's foursome, went down into the hole with a rope and wrapped it around his pal.
About 20 minutes after falling into the hole, Mihal was hauled out.
"I feel lucky just to come out of it with (only) a shoulder injury, falling that far and not knowing what I was going to hit," said Mihal, who plays to a 6 handicap and was 1-under-par at the time. "It was absolutely crazy.
" ... I felt fortunate I didn't break both legs, or worse."
Making the experience worse for Mihal was that he is claustrophobic.
--The LPGA Tour, which enjoyed a 22 percent increase in television coverage last year and had seen a 68 percent ratings increase for domestic tournaments the last two years, has announced its complete 2013 schedule TV on the Golf Channel.
All but one of 29 tournaments on the schedule will be televised and every event in North America will feature live coverage on the weekend.
"Our fans have pushed the tour's television coverage and ratings to new heights, and we're pleased to present them with even more opportunities to watch our players in action," said Brian Carroll, LPGA Vice President of Television and Emerging Media.
"Our strong partnership with Golf Channel has provided us with many exciting ways to further showcase our players, not only during tournament telecasts, but also beyond the golf course."
There will be nearly 300 hours of LPGA Tour golf televised in high definition by the Golf Channel this year.
In addition, there will be more than 30 hours of coverage during the Solheim Cup, which pits the United States against Europe, from Colorado Golf Club outside of Denver on Aug. 16-18.
In 2009, the final day of the Solheim Cup matches at Rich Harvest Farms outside Chicago featured the biggest audience for an LPGA Tour event in Golf Channel history.
The Golf Channel will televise all five LPGA Tour majors: the Kraft Nabisco Championship on April 4-7, the Wegmans LPGA Championship on June 6-9, the U.S. Women's Open from June 26-29, the Ricoh Women's British Open from St. Andrews on Aug. 1-4 and the Evian Championship from France on Sept. 12-15.
The only LPGA Tour event that will not be televised is the Mizuno Classic at Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club in Shima-Shi, Mie, Japan, on Nov. 8-10.

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