Wizards

A year of change on the PGA Tour

A year of change on the PGA Tour

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Let's see if we get this straight.

In a decision just about everyone saw coming, golf's ruling bodies declared their intentions to outlaw putting strokes that are anchored to the body, which Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els used in winning three of the last five major championships.

It would not become a new rule for three years.

A few days earlier, the Royal & Ancient dropped the biggest post-Thanksgiving surprise since that Florida Highway Patrol report on a single-car accident involving Tiger Woods. It proposed alterations to half the holes on the Old Course at St. Andrews, including the front part of the green near the famous Road Hole bunker.

Work began in three days.

No matter your opinion on either subject, there is little disputing that 2012 was filled with significant changes. Perhaps it was only fitting that the PGA of America decided not to let the year end without picking a new Ryder Cup captain. It announced on Tuesday there would be announcement Thursday. On the ``Today'' show.

So what to expect for 2013?

The PGA Tour will end one season in September and start a new season in October.

The Web.com Tour will get more attention than ever with four tournaments in the fall that, in effect, replace Q-school.

The six rounds of Q-school that Erik Compton not-so-affectionately referred to as ``hell week'' will be missing this familiar phrase: ``If he makes this putt, he's on the PGA Tour.'' That's because the new version of the Q-school only awards a ticket to the minor leagues.

Instead of finishing the calendar year outside the Magic Kingdom, players will be going to Mexico. Adios, Disney.

Two of the biggest changes - the wraparound season and Q-school - were only a matter of time.

The demise of Q-school was brought on by the creation in 2007 of the FedEx Cup, and while players might not take time to understand the points, they understand four playoff events worth a total of $67 million in prize money and bonuses. Trouble is, that reduced the tournaments after the FedEx Cup to something called the ``Fall Series,'' with smaller purses, watered-down fields and minimal world ranking points.

The only way to keep those sponsors happy was to treat them like regular PGA Tour events. The only way to treat them like regular events was to give them FedEx Cup points. And they couldn't give FedEx Cup points without making them part of the regular schedule, thus the wraparound season.

Start in October, end in September. Win/lose the Presidents Cup/Ryder Cup. Repeat process.

And with the new season starting so soon, there was no time to award PGA Tour cards at Q-school. That's a big reason the tour went to the four-tournament series known as ``The Finals,'' to be played roughly the same time as the FedEx Cup playoffs.

The greater change will be anchored strokes, and the PGA Tour would do well to take a page from the Old Course and get started immediately.

The rule still has go to through a 90-day comment period before the USGA and R&A approved it, and because the Rules of Golf only change every four years, it would not be effective until the next book comes out in 2016.

There was talk that the PGA Tour could create its own rule and allow the putting stroke. What's more likely to happen is for the PGA Tour to create its own rule that bans the anchored stroke well before 2016 - like the start of the 2014 season, which will be in October of 2013.

It puts players like Bradley in a sticky spot. While it's perfectly legal to anchor the club now, everyone knows the end of the belly putter is near. It was difficult not to look at Bradley and Simpson differently after the proposed ban was announced, where before no one would have noticed and even few would have cared. TV can't ignore it, either, and is that really what the PGA Tour wants to hear from the booth for the next three years?

Bradley says a fan called him a cheater during the third round of the World Challenge at Sherwood, and the USGA rushed out a statement that condemned the comment as ``deplorable.'' It's surprising the USGA has waited this long to take on the fan who screams, ``Get in the hole'' when players tee off on a par 5 by reminding us there is no evidence of anyone reaching the green with a 575-yard tee shot.

Can someone like Bradley expect more of the same? Possibly. Just don't get the idea such comments will cause an unfair advantage.

Bradley thrives on this stuff.

He was asked after the round if the debate could actually help him because he was running out of chips to put on his shoulder.

``Absolutely,'' he said. ``You hear guys like Michael Jordan talk about how he liked to play on the road. The guy called me a cheater on the last hole - that gets me motivated. I'm never running out of stuff to motivate me because I always feel like I need to get better. I never go into a tournament thinking I'm playing so good that I'm going to win. Every single tournament I've won, I had a borderline meltdown on Wednesday. That's what keeps me going. It's just how I am.''

Don't get the idea Bradley lacks confidence. He thinks he can win every week. It just doesn't hurt to find motivation wherever he can, even from the gallery.

``I think it's one of my best qualities,'' he said.

As for St. Andrews? No need to panic just yet. The British Open doesn't return there for three more years.

Quick Links

NBA Midseason Awards 2018: Who is leading the pack at the break?

NBA Midseason Awards 2018: Who is leading the pack at the break?

The 2017-18 NBA season has reached the halfway point with the 2018 NBA All-Star Game taking place in Los Angeles, Calif., this weekend.

But as the season shifts toward the second half NBC Sports Washington is taking at the major NBA awards and which players are positioned to bring home the hardware at the end of the 2018 season.

The season is far from over the second half is where the awards are won. Will Ben Simmons hold on to his lead in the Rookie of the Year running? Will LeBron James surpass James Harden for the MVP award?

Below are the detailed results of the NBC Sports Washington NBA midseason awards. 

The voting panel consists of NBC Sports Washington's Steve Buckhantz, Kara Lawson, Chris Miles, Travis Thomas, Adam Wise, Chase Hughes, Nick Ashooh and Troy Machir.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

2017-2018 NBA Midseason Awards

Rookie of the Year:

Nick AshoohDonovan Mitchell, Jazz. While Simmons gets to work with another franchise player in Joel Embiid, Mitchell saw Utah's second-leading scorer traded at the deadline (Rodney Hood), and has had center Rudy Gobert miss tons of games with injuries. Mitchell is the first rookie to lead his team in scoring during a winning streak of at least 11 games and he leads all rookies in scoring, on a team that could make the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.

Steve BuckhantzBen Simmons, 76ers. Rookie of the year would be Ben Simmons, and while there are more than one outstanding young players in the game, he seems to be the most unstoppable and the one with the greatest upside, especially if he hones his shooting skills.

Chase Hughes: Ben Simmons, 76ers. Simmons has returned from injury to be a rookie sensation, consistently flirting with or recording triple-doubles. He is going to be an All-Star for a long time.

Kara LawsonBen Simmons, 76ers.

Troy MachirBen Simmons, 76ers. This is tough because Simmons 1) isn't really a rookie 2) Doesn't have any range on his jump shot, and 3) gets to play with Joel Embiid. Donovan Mitchell is the best player on his team and is doing it all without Rodney Hood (trade) and Rudy Gobert (injury). I still lean toward Simmons, but Mitchell will probably steal from him in the second half. 

Chris Miles:  Donovan Mitchell, Jazz. As Damian Lillard put it, he’s actually leading his team. Secondly he isn’t a “red-shirt rookie” like his top competitor Ben Simmons. This is a two horse race if anyone picks someone else that’s a failed drug test.

Travis ThomasBen Simmons, 76ers.  He’s the second best player on a team destined for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. His combination of size and court vision reminds me of a young Magic Johnson.

Adam Wise: Ben Simmons, 76ers. I don't like the rule that he's technically a rookie (ahem, Blake Griffin winning over John Wall in 2010-11) but he's a triple-double threat every night and you can't ignore that. Donovan Mitchell is a close second.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

Most Improved Player:

Nick Ashooh: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. It’s always tough to pick the MOP, because sometimes it’s more about bigger opportunity that showcases the game a player already has.

Steve BuckhantzJaylen Brown, Celtics. Every time I see him play, the results are amazing. A very close second would be Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks.

Chase Hughes: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. Oladipo went from decent to stardom seemingly overnight and has made the Pacers look very smart for trading for him.

Kara Lawson: Victor Oladipo, Pacers.

Troy Machir: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. We've always known Oladipo has elite athleticism and talent, but the change in scenery meant more opportunities to lead and develop. He's gone from a solid start to a bona fide perennial All-Star in less than half a season. 

Chris MilesVictor Oladipo, Pacers. He’s running away with this award. I taught him how to shoot over the summer so I can’t wait to get my residuals.

Travis ThomasVictor Oladipo. The local product is an All-Star now and he’s the only bright light on a team that’s overachieving, proving he’s also a leader. It’s hard to imagine the Pacers being in the Playoff picture without Oladipo.

Adam Wise: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks. Should Tim Hardaway Jr. have a say in this? Giannis has upped his "wow" factor this season and it was already among to tops in the league. He's can't-miss viewing when he's on the floor.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

Sixth Man of the Year:

Nick Ashooh: Lou Williams, Clippers. No brainer here. "Lou-Will" is one of the top scorers in the NBA despite playing just 32 minutes per game.

Steve BuckhantzLou Williams, Clippers. He's making shots of the bench like Jamal Crawford and has had numerous game winners. I also like Terry Rozier of Boston. He's an excellent player with a huge upside.

Keely Diven:

Chase Hughes: Lou Williams, Clippers.  could have been an All-Star this year, he has been that good off the Clippers' bench. The guy is putting up career numbers and got a well-deserved contract extension along the way.

Kara Lawson: Lou Williams, Clippers. 

Troy Machir: Lou Williams, Clippers. There are several good candidates, but this is Lou Williams' award ... again. He's averaging over 20 ppg and coming off the bench AND nearly made the All-Star Game. When has that ever happened before?

Chris Miles:  Kelly Oubre, Wizards. Yep, I went full homer on this one. Dude is legit and this summer the “should Oubre start” camp is going to revolt if he keeps this up.

Travis ThomasLou Williams, Clippers. He should be every year. In fact they should rename the award, Lou Williams Of The Year. He’s averaging 23 points a game coming off the bench for a team going nowhere fast.

Adam Wise: Lou Williams, Clippers. He should've been an All-Star ... and he doesn't even start! 

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

Coach of the Year:

Nick Ashooh: Mike D'Antoni, Rockets. D’Antoni has kept the Rockets in contention for the top spot in the west, which means a true competitor to the Warriors. They’ve already had two double-digit win streaks, and now that he finally has a roster that fits his system, it’s not just Golden State that can run teams off the floor.

Steve Buckhantz: Eric Spoelstra, Heat. Just when you think they really don't have a lot going on in South Florida, he consistently keeps his squad in the game and has them poised to make a run in the post season. Brett Brown of the Sixers and Brad Steven of the Celtics would also get consideration.

Chase Hughes: Gregh Popovich, Spurs. The Spurs are third in the stacked Western Conference despite missing Kawhi Leonard.

Kara Lawson: Dwane Casey, Raptors.

Troy Machir: Dwane Casey, Raptors. The Cavs and Celtics are the talk of the East, but the Raptors are the most consistent team this side of the Mississippi River. Casey doesn't get enough credit, which is why I'm writing about him here. 

Chris MilesBrad Stevens, Celtics. I hate Boston, everything about it. Just being forced to pick this guy means I don’t have to write an explanation.

Travis ThomasBrad Stevens, Celtics. Boston has continually overachieved under Stevens tutelage. Despite the devastating injury to Gordon Hayward, Stevens still has the Celtics primed for a run at the NBA Finals.

Adam Wise: Dwane Casey, Raptors. Toronto seemed to be an afterthought in the East after everyone got all excited about the new faces in Boston and Cleveland. He's figured out how to use a deeper bench, while also giving ample minutes to his stars in DeRozan & Lowry. The Raptors are very well in the hunt for the top seed for that reason.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

NBA Most Valuable Player:

Nick Ashooh: James Harden, Rockets. He leads the NBA in scoring, second in assists, and has Houston poised to give a legit push to the Warriors out West.

Steve Buckhantz: James Harden, Rockets. You can always make a case for the great players and how they elevate the athletes around them, and this is an award that's best suited to someone AFTER the season ends, but right now I'd go with Harden, who continues to play at a high level for his squad. Lebron will be there in the end, as will Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. 

Chase Hughes: James Harden, Rockets. He is the NBA's leading scorer, is second in assists and is leading the charge for the Rockets, who have the league's best record.

Kara Lawson: James Harden, Rockets. 

Troy Machir: James Harden, Rockets. LeBron James is still the best basketball player on the planet, but James Harden is the NBA MVP at the midway point. He's still the elite volume scorer he always was, but he's evolved into a player that makes his teammates around him better. Also, he scored a 60-point triple-double. 

Chris MilesJames Harden, Rockets. His 60-point triple-double should say enough. His team is also 26-1 when he has Chris Paul and Clint Capella. They also gave it to the Warriors and are in contention for the top seed in the West. Lebron James is second and could supplant Harden depending on how the season ends.

Travis ThomasJames Harden, Rockets. You could have made the case for him the past three seasons but other guys balled out of control and earned the award. This season it’s undeniable, he’s averaging  over 30 point per game and leading one of the best teams in the league.

Adam Wise: James Harden, Rockets. He's used the runner-up to the award as motivation this year. While the rebounding numbers are down (Clint Capella has gobbled them up), he's still near the top of the league in assists and he's leading the NBA in scoring. Oh yeah, and his play has elevated the Rockets into the "Could they really beat the Warriors in the playoffs?" discussion.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

Virginia stays at No. 1, Middle Tennessee enters Top 25 for first time ever

virginia_bench_usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Virginia stays at No. 1, Middle Tennessee enters Top 25 for first time ever

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Virginia strengthened its hold on No. 1 in the AP Top 25 while Duke jumped back into the top five after a pair of impressive wins.

The Cavaliers earned 42 of 65 first-place votes in the poll released Monday. That's 12 more than last week when they reached No. 1 for the first time since the Ralph Sampson era.

The top four remained unchanged, with No. 2 Michigan State earning 19 first-place votes after rallying from 27 down to beat Northwestern. Third-ranked Villanova got the other four first-place votes after winning at No. 4 Xavier.

Fifth-ranked Duke jumped seven spots after beating Virginia Tech and Clemson despite playing without injured top freshman Marvin Bagley III.

Middle Tennessee checked in at 24th, marking its first AP Top 25 appearance in program history.

Complete AP Top 25 Poll for Week 16:

1. Virginia (42)
2. Michigan State (19)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
6. Texas Tech
7. Gonzaga
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Auburn
13. Wichita State
14. Arizona
15. Clemson
16. Ohio State
17. Michigan
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Nevada
21. West Virginia
22. Saint Mary's (CA)
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee
25. Florida State

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.