by Jeff Skinner
I have always respected Mike Davis of the USGA and Peter Dawson of the R&A, but the events of this week have caused me to look at Mr. Dawson in a different light.
Davis and Dawson put on an interesting show with the announcement of the rule change banning anchored strokes. With the announcement comes a firestorm of controversy and a very convenient side effect for Dawson: all the media focus has shifted from his sneak attack on the Old Course.
The R&A, led by Dawson, and the St. Andrews Links Trust announced on the Friday after Thanksgiving that they would be making drastic changes to the old course. Anytime you want to bury news you let it loose on a Friday.
So Dawson gives us the bad news on Friday and by Monday earth movers are on the course and the Road Hole Bunker is ripped up. There wasn’t even time for Tom Doak’s campaign, protesting the changes, to gain any traction.
Now, on Wednesday Dawson uses Davis and the announcement for cover to take the heat away from the desecration of the Old Course. Seal Team Six couldn’t have planned a better operation. Mission accomplished Mr. Dawson. All the press you were getting for violating the Old Course has now been focused on the rules change. Sneaky, very sneaky.
May you be haunted by the ghost of Old Tom Morris.
by Jeff Skinner
Well the stuff has finally hit the fan. With the joint announcement by The USGA and the R&A that they are preparing to ban “anchoring” the opinions and criticism is coming from all quarters.
While Mike Davis (USGA) and Peter Dawson (R&A) were announcing the proposed rule change to ban the anchoring, the PGA of America, which prides itself on growing the game, comes out with a statement asking for them to reconsider the impact among all those that play the game.
Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman all support the change. But there are plenty of players like Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson , Carl Pettersson and Fred Couples that will have to contemplate what stoke they’ll use when the change takes place. Click here for some varied opinions.
Even though the vast majority of professional players don’t use an anchored stroke, three of the last five major winners have used them. The USGA and the R&A see a growing trend and have taken this action to ensure that the putting stroke remains a “stroke”. Dawson said, “Our conclusion is that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional strokes, which with all their frailties are integral to the longstanding character of our sport.”
It is a complicated issue and the USGA and R&A felt the need for some visual aids to illustrate the legal and illegal strokes. Click here for your look at the strokes you’ll be allowed to use and the ones that cost you a penalty.
And now there’s talk about the PGA Tour looking at not going by the proposed rule change. Can things get any stranger?
One thing is certain, this is just the beginning, maybe the beginning of the end but still just the beginning.
by Jeff Skinner
There were many great tournaments this season but the Ryder Cup was so earth shattering and exciting it easily tops all the other events. The European comeback was by far the most exciting Sunday in golf this year and many say it could rank with the most exciting days in all of golf.
With the Euros facing a four point deficit going into the final day of play any chance of retaining the cup looked extremely remote. After all, Ben Crenshaw was nowhere to be found…and Captain Jose Maria Olazabal didn’t go all “I’ve got a good feeling about this” but he did say he believed in his team.
And his belief proved justified as the Euros came out Sunday morning with guns blazing and took the first five matches from the Americans. From there the Americans could only manage three points before Martin Kaymer closed out Steve Stricker to win the cup.
The Euros may have been captained by Olazabal and guided by the spirit of Seve but they were led by the volatile Ian Poulter. Poulter singlehandedly stopped the bleeding by the Europeans on Saturday with an amazing finish in the afternoon fourball. Teamed with Rory McIlroy, Poulter erased a 2 down deficit to Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson with five consecutive finishing birdies to lift the spirits of the European Team.
After Poulter’s comeback even though the Americans had a four point lead it appeared that the Euros had the momentum. Sunday’s disastrous start by the Americans proved that thinking right. Poulter kept the magic up with a come from behind win against Webb Simpson. Poulter never led until the seventeenth hole and took the last two holes winning 2 up.
The entire week was highlighted by Poulter’s primal screams and double fist pumps as he drained putt after putt and finally beat the spirit out of the Americans. Poulter was the only player to earn four full points for either team and he established himself as the heart of the European Team. For his animated play at the Ryder Cup he earns the title of Performance of the Year.
by Jeff Skinner
Of all the courses a golfer yearns to play at least once before they head to the eternal 19th hole it’s the Old Course. To walk the grounds of Old Tom Morris is the dream of any true golfer. To be able to play the same course that so many great professionals have played is a great part of the allure of the Old Course. But it is so much more than that.
The hallowed grounds of the Old Course are now to be changed, and changed drastically to accommodate the professionals that play nothing but a fraction of the rounds there.
Peter Dawson the Chief Executive of the R&A said the changes are to offer a stiffer challenge to the professional golfers. Translation: The R&A wants to “protect the course” and these efforts are designed to thwart those super low scores that have become so very common place with the advent of the bazooka like drivers and the rocket like golf ball.
But something is radically wrong. This is the Old Course, the Mecca for all golfers, and changing it so drastically just so a 59 isn’t carded on it is pathetic. I know this course isn’t the exact same one where Tom Kidd won the first Open Championship played at St. Andrews in 1873. Nor is it the same one that Bobby Jones won on in 1927 or Sam Snead in 1948. But the last change to a bunker on that course took place in 1949 and the changes of late have been to tee boxes, adding length of course. So maybe to an amateur who doesn’t play from the tips this just may be as close a layout as one could get to the same tract that Bobby Locke won on in ’57 or Jack Nicklaus in 1970 & 78. And maybe we could play the same shots that Seve Ballesteros did when he won in ’84 or Faldo in ’92 and Daly in ’95. We could pretend for a moment that we were Tiger in 2000 or even Oosthuizen three seasons ago. You get my drift.
But playing where the pros play is only a very small part of the attraction of the Old Course. This is the course that millions of golfers have played on for hundreds of years, the same turf, the same sand, the same gorse, the same burn.
The course has evolved over the years but there isn’t a course in the world with more history and tradition than the Old Course. And if any organization in the world values tradition it’s the R&A. Are they that concerned that low scores will make the Old Course anything less than it is now? Hogwash, as they would say.
The appeal of the Old Course isn’t that it is the toughest course in the world, heck it’s nowhere close to being the toughest course in the Open Championship Rota. Are we supposed to care what the total under par score is at the Open? Or are we supposed to revel in the fact that we see the greatest golfers in the world walk these hallowed grounds every five years? That’s what I do…enjoy watching the rolls and bounces of links golf, that’s what the R&A should do.
If Dawkins and his fellow members are so concerned about protecting against low scores they should institute a ball change and leave the course alone. These aren’t minor changes, they are so significant that Tom Doak has started a campaign to have the R&A reconsider the changes but it may be too late, work has already started. The R&A aren’t stupid, they probably figured that they would get the work started before all the screaming started.
I haven’t had a chance to play the Old Course yet but I was hoping to make the trip soon to fulfill that dream of so many golfers. But as it looks now, the course that has been there for hundreds of years won’t be the one I walk. There’s no other way to classify this but to simply call it sinful.
by Jeff Skinner
Rory McIlroy just finished his 2012 season with a big win on the European Tour but the fact is that Rory had earned The Player of the Year long before he ever set foot in Dubai.
To say Rory is the PGA Tour Player of the Year is doing him a disservice. Rory is the player of the year for the entire universe. He led the PGA Tour with four victories and ten top ten finishes and he added another major, The PGA Championship to his resume. Tiger Woods has three PGA Tour wins and a band of golfers claimed two wins but none of them included a major. It is really unfair to compare Rory’s performance this year to any other golfer as he was head and shoulders above everyone on both the PGA and European Tours.
He led both tours in earnings, had the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour and had five worldwide victories. This all from a golfer that had a mid-season slump when he missed three of four cuts on the PGA Tour. This from a player that a few weeks ago said he was burned out. This from a kid that spent every free minute flying around the world to meet his tennis playing girlfriend. I am afraid to see what he can do when he “adjusts” his schedule in 2013 as he has said he will.
Rory not only displayed excellence on the course but he was a gentleman with the press and the fans. Behind the microphone he is honest, polite and as humble as the best player in the world could be. He is loved by his fans all over the world and respected by his fellow players.
It’s Rory’s world and we are all just part of the crowd standing behind the ropes. He’s not just the PGA Tour Player of the Year; he’s the Best Player on the Planet.
by Jeff Skinner
After a slow start to his final round, Rory McIlroy put the hammer down on the back nine to win the DP World Tour Championship and finish his 2012 season with an emphatic exclamation point.
He opened with a bogey on the first hole and finished and a pedestrian 35 on the front nine that kept the race for first place tense. Rory traded shots with playing partner Luke Donald as Charl Schwartzel and Justin Rose mounted their charges.
Rose blistered the course with a new record at The Earth Course. His 10 under par 62 included eight birdies and an eagle but also included a monster eagle putt on the eighteenth hole that hung over the lip and missed falling in by a hair. That would have forced Rory to go even lower to avoid a playoff. As it was, McElroy finished with an impressive string of five straight birdies to close at 23 under par and two strokes clear of Rose.
McIlroy became the second straight player to win both the US PGA Tour and the European Tour money Titles. But this year McIlroy broke Donald’s 2011 single season earnings record. McIlroy earned $7,161, 276 to Donald’s $6,907,325 of official Euro Tour money.
McIlroy acknowledged Roses’ charge and with this check still not cashed is looking forward to next season. “I saw Justin make a charge – I heard the cheers,” he said, “but to finish like that was great.
“I could not have wished for any better. To back up 2011 with another Major and to be part of an unbelievable story at the Ryder Cup has made it an incredible year.
“But hopefully I can emulate it or do even better next year!”
“It’s an unbelievable feeling – I said I wanted to win both trophies this week and that is exactly what I’ve managed to do even though I didn’t get off to the best of starts with a bogey on the first.
“I knew I needed to do something special over the closing few holes – I really couldn’t have wished for a better ending.”
“I made all the targets that I set for this year and I’m already looking forward to 2013.”
by Jeff Skinner
Americans may be spending today fighting the crowds of “Black Friday” or walking off that 3,000 calorie turkey dinner from yesterday but half a world away in Dubai there’s still golf being played. The European Tour’s best are closing out their season at The DP World Tour Championship.
So far it’s been a birdie fest and the top two players in the world golf ranking have a share of the lead. Number one, Rory McIlroy and number two Luke Donald are at 11 under as is Marc Warren.
The course at one of Rory’s main sponsors, Jumeriah Golf Estates is yielding plenty of birdies and showing little difficulty for Euro’s best. In the second round the top five golfers combined one eagle, 24 birdies and only four bogeys. As a matter of fact, Sergio Garcia tied the course record of 64 with an interesting card that contained 9 birds, 2 eagles, 2 bogeys and a triple bogey 7. 64 with a triple….now that’s some good golf. Click here for Sergio’s card.