Golf Buzz

February 18, 2013 - 9:34am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Brad Faxon
Getty Images
Brad Faxon thinks a response from the PGA Tour on the proposed ban of anchored putters could come Monday evening.

 

Along with being one of the best putters in the history of professional golf, Brad Faxon has also been one of the most articulate.
 
Over the weekend, in a column on Golf.com, Faxon wrote that the PGA Tour Policy Board (a 16-player committee) will meet with PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem early this evening to make a serious decision -- will they accept the USGA and R&A's position on banning anchored putters; or will they oppose and propose that golf's governing bodies withdraw the ban?
 
If the Policy Board opposes, it will likely set the stage for that word we've all been hearing lately, "bifurcation," or, two sets of rules.
 
Faxon, a former Policy Board member, admits he'd like to see the ban come to fruition.
 
"Personally, I am in favor of the proposed ban," Faxon wrote. "I believe lodging the butt end of the putter in your naval, or holding it against your chest or chin, does not constitute a traditional golf swing and is not in the inherent nature of what we could call a 'swing.' Yes, there have been many changes in golf over the centuries, but the fundamental nature of how you hold the club and the unencumbered way you make a swing have been remarkably consistent ever since featheries and gutties were rolling down fairways in Scotland."
 
That said, Faxon believes there's a good chance the Policy Board will go against the proposed ban.
 
"The USGA and the R&A, the world's governing golf bodies, have an open comment period about the proposed rule change that concludes at the end of this month," Faxon explained. "If you're so inclined, try to influence the debate-send an email to the USGA, R&A or PGA Tour and let them know how you feel. That's why Tim [Finchem] is having his Tour Policy Board meeting on Monday. I believe he's going to try to persuade the board that the Tour should urge the USGA to withdraw the proposed ban."
 
While some argue that a ban isn't fair to players like Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson who have used a belly putter for years, or Adam Scott and Ernie Els who have resurrected careers thanks to a long putter, well, Faxon has a strong case for why it might be fair.
 
"I believe if you took the greatest players who use anchored-putters (Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Vijay Singh, Bernhard Langer, to name a few), put them in a private room and got them to tell you what they really think, they'd say the same thing: it's not really golf as golf was meant to be played. But they would also say that since the USGA and the R&A didn't ban the stroke 25 years ago, it shouldn't ban it now. I'm sympathetic. However, if your goal is to make a proper decision, timing should be irrelevant. It's never too late to right a wrong."
 
It'll be interesting to hear what the Tour's response will be.
 
 
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.
February 18, 2013 - 2:39am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Jim Crane
Getty Images
President Obama "played well" on Sunday, said Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, who also owns The Floridian and hosted Obama and Tiger Woods.

No official word yet from either President Obama or Tiger Woods about their round of golf on Sunday, but their host is talking.

"We had a big day today," Jim Crane, who owns The Floridian as well as the Houston Astros, told MLB.com, the Major League Baseball website. Crane was the fourth along with Obama, Woods and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

"Well, when you get to play with the President and Tiger Woods in the same round, that's one that doesn't happen every day and it might not happen again," Crane said. "It was a lot of fun. The President was very cordial, and Tiger had a lot of fun and hit some great shots. We had a lot of fun."

Crane said he was impressed with Obama's game.

"[Obama] played well today," Crane said. "He made some good shots and had some pars, and I think he shot in the 80s.

"The weather was nice and we had fun," Crane added. "I think [Obama] really enjoyed his visit and we really enjoyed having him in The Floridian, and hopefully we'll have him back some day."

Crane is close to a scratch golfer, but he apparently didn't discuss his own showing with MLB.com. Regardless of how he played on Sunday, he's had a pretty good couple of weeks on the course.

Two weeks ago, he played with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in a big charity event at The Floridian. And last week, he teamed with PGA Tour player Kevin Streelman to tie for third in the pro-am competition at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

"I've had a pretty big week the last couple of weeks," he said, in quite the understatement.

Crane, in case you're wondering, hosted a big fundraiser for Obama last spring in Houston. He bought the Astros last last year, and had purchased The Floridian from former owner Wayne Huizenga in 2010.

Crane also played with Obama on Saturday, with instructor Butch Harmon accompanying the group.

February 17, 2013 - 7:26pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Tiger Woods and Tim Rosaforte
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Tim Rosaforte presented Tiger Woods with an award back in 2007; on Sunday, he broke the news of Woods' round with President Obama.

As we all know by now, President Obama played golf with Tiger Woods down in Florida today.

The news of this presidential pairing – Obama and Woods played with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, who also owns the private Floridian yacht and golf club, where Obama is spending the three-day Presidents Day holiday – was broken Sunday morning by Tim Rosaforte, who writes for Golf World and also appears on the Golf Channel.

In his dual roles, Rosaforte has become one of golf's most visible and valuable chroniclers – I'd rank him among the top five golf writers working today. He's also a nice guy – though he didn't make any friends among the White House press corps this weekend by scooping them so thoroughly.

Having lived in Washington, D.C., for almost two decades and having worked in both Congress and the government-covering media for several years, I know all too well that nothing irks the reporters who cover the White House like not having access to the President. In situations like today, reporters generally aren't allowed to accompany the golfers in an attempt to give them a modicum of privacy to enjoy their round – presidents sometimes allow media to tag along, but usually not.

And in fact, this weekend, the traveling press corps has been confined to what The Washington Post described as a ''party bus'' while Obama has been on-site at The Floridian. However, Rosaforte got access to the pro shop – not exactly riding in the cart with Obama and Woods, but way better than where the White House reporters have been stranded.

That, as you might suspect, has caused some hard feelings among the political scribes – who apparently haven't even laid eyes on Obama – especially after Rosaforte tweeted about Woods meeting up with Obama on the practice range and then beginning their round a little later.

''For much of this outing, the small contingent of the White House press corps accompanying Obama has lobbied with little success for more information about where precisely on the Floridian grounds the president is staying, who he is staying with, and how much contact he has with other people on the grounds,'' wrote Scott Wilson on The Washington Post's 'Post Politics' blog Sunday afternoon. ''A photo of Obama on the course with someone as famous as Woods is commonly a moment the 'traveling pool' of about a dozen journalists is allowed to witness. White House officials declined to allow that Sunday.''

Because the President's motorcade hasn't left the compound, White House officials explained, there was no reason for the pool to track the President's activities or to know who he is spending time with on a personal vacation. That is an argument often respected by the White House press corps, Wilson wrote, except this time Obama isn't staying in a private home.

''The debate over access had grown near-Talmudic in its intensity and detail,'' Wilson wrote. Rosaforte's presence ''prompted a sharp complaint from the White House Correspondents' Association over the way this trip — and Sunday's outing, in particular — has been handled by the administration in a way that has rendered it largely hidden from the traveling press.''

And, unsaid, is the fact that Rosaforte tweeted out the news of Tiger's presence at The Floridian and his round with Obama well before anyone in the White House press corps could do anything about it.

I haven't spoken to Rosaforte about how he found out about the Obama-Woods pairing or how he got better access than the White House reporters, but at this point it doesn't matter. He's the undisputed heavyweight champion of the golf journalists' world today.

February 17, 2013 - 1:47pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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President Obama and Tiger Woods at the White House
White House photo
Tiger Woods and President Obama have met in the White House but, until today, never on the golf course.

While several of golf's big stars are walking the fairways at Riviera today, it's fair to say that the game's most powerful pairing is playing a round 3,000 miles away in Palm City, Fla.

President Obama, as we all know, is spending this weekend down at The Floridian, playing golf and taking lessons from the likes of Butch Harmon and his son, Claude Harmon III.

And today, the President is putting those lessons to good use – he teed off with Tiger Woods, who made the quick trip up from his home in Jupiter, Fla. The round hasn't yet been confirmed by the White House, which has said very little about the golf weekend. But Tim Rosaforte of Golf World and the Golf Channel is at The Floridian, and has tweeted a few reports.

"The President is arriving at The Floridian range. Awaiting is Tiger Woods and club owner Jim Crane. Historic day in golf. Their first round," Rosaforte said on Twitter about mid-morning.

No media was allowed to accompany the golfers, but Rosaforte, hanging out in the pro shop, tweeted that "we received word that TW holed out greenside bunker No. 1 for birdie." Soon thereafter – obviously as word spread – Rosaforte reported that The Floridian website had crashed. "Bandwidth limit exceeded."

So we'll leave it at that for now. 

February 16, 2013 - 8:49pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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TaylorMade RocketBallz Stage 2 driver
Courtesy of TaylorMade
The clubface on the TaylorMade Stage 2 driver is even bigger than on the original edition, which makes the Stage 2 even easier to hit for golfers of every skill level.

No golf club created more of a sensation in 2012 than the RocketBallz driver from TaylorMade, so the 2013 introduction of its successor – called the RocketBallz Stage 2 – is a noteworthy event.

This new edition has a lower and more forward Center of Gravity, a more aerodynamic head shape and an expanded face that, TaylorMade says, all combine to generate up to nine more yards of distance for better players compared to the first-generation RBZ driver.

''It's hard to imagine bringing a driver to market that outperforms the original RocketBallz driver,'' said Todd Beach, TaylorMade's vice president of metalwoods research and development. ''Making the head of the RBZ Stage 2 driver more aerodynamic while also making the clubface larger was a tremendous challenge.''

Though not as adjustable as TaylorMade's flagship R1 driver, the RBZ Stage 2 has been updated to offer 12 different lofts, lie angles and face angles within the window of a 1.5-degree loft adjustment. It also includes a Thick-thin Crown design in which various portions of the crown range from 0.6 to 0.4 millimeter thick, saving three grams of weight as compared to the crowns of the 2012 R11S and RocketBallz Tour drivers.

When creating the R11 driver a few years ago, TaylorMade engineers discovered that a low-and-forward Center of Gravity location helps promote faster ball speed and a higher launch angle, both of which promote more distance. The RBZ Stage 2 Tour driver incorporates a CG location that's lower and more forward than the first-generation RBZ, and it also includes TaylorMade's Inverted Cone Technology in which an inverted cone is milled into the inner side of the clubface to expand the sweet spot and help improve the result of off-center hits.

One of the primary characteristics of the original RocketBallz driver was what TaylorMade calls its ''large address footprint,'' and that footprint is even bigger this time around. The new clubface is even larger and deeper, encompassing 4,100 square millimeters. This, the company says, makes the Stage 2 even easier to hit for golfers of every skill level.

The Stage 2 driver comes standard with a 50-gram Fujikura RocketFuel shaft and a light grip that keeps the club under 300 grams of total weight. That, along with balancing the club to a slightly higher swing weight, allows the RBZ Stage 2 driver to promote faster swing speed for most golfers. And the lightweight characteristics of the shaft coupled with the head's mass properties work together to create a moderate draw bias.

One other interesting thing to note about the Stage 2 is its crown graphics. The head is white with a black face, like several other modern TaylorMade models, but the crown has black, gold and gray graphics even more complex than the gray and orange graphics on the R1 driver. To create these graphics, TaylorMade used its MAT-T (Motion Analysis Technology by TaylorMade) System to study how most golfers look down at their drivers and fairway clubs, and used a computer program to design the graphics to serve as an alignment aid.

There is also a Stage 2 Tour model, which has an even lower and more forward Center of Gravity and a stock Matrix 6Q3 shaft to promote a more penetrating ball flight. The standard Stage 2 carries a suggested retail price of $299, while the Tour version retails for $349.

February 16, 2013 - 1:20am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Old photo of golfer anchoring belly putter
Keegan Bradley via Twitter
Keegan Bradley took to Twitter on Friday to show us this photo of a golfer from many decades ago anchoring a putter to his body.

By now, we all know Keegan Bradley's stance on the issues of belly putters and the proposed anchoring ban.

On Friday, he let a picture do the talking in his ongoing contention that the USGA and R&A ought to drop their plans to ban the anchoring of putter strokes and, therefore, keep long putters legal and valid.

While walking through the clubhouse at Riviera on Friday, he ran across the photo posted above. As you can see, it shows a golfer clearly anchoring a putter to his body many decades ago. Looking closely, that flat stick doesn't exactly look like a long putter, but it is definitely anchored.

To golfers interested in the anchoring debate, this photo is a bit like an archaeologist discovering new fossils that indicate the presence of humans farther back in time than anyone had thought. Photos like this show that at least some golfers have been anchoring for many decades, if not centuries. That fact might or might not change anyone's mind regarding whether anchoring should be okayed or outlawed, but it certainly adds a new dimension to the debate.

When he posted the photo on Twitter, all Bradley wrote was, ''Picture in Rivera clubhouse. Early 1900's.''

Clearly, that caption was his "drop the mic" moment.