A ban on anchors, a long way to go


A ban on anchors, a long way to go

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) The putt was meaningless because it was the final hole of a pro-am in what amounts to an 18-man exhibition at the end of the year, even though ranking points are available at the World Challenge. But it was hard not to look at the end of the putter pressed into the belly of Keegan Bradley.

The decision to ban the anchor stroke used for belly putters and broom-handle putters was not because of Bradley, even though he became the face of a style that was gaining popularity, not to mention credibility.

Bradley became the first player to win a major using the belly putter when he rammed in a 35-foot birdie putt on the 17th at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2011 during a remarkable comeback. It was in the news conference after the PGA Championship that Bradley spoke about a number of players on the Nationwide Tour who were using belly putters. The next year, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els won majors with a belly putter.

The U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient, who announced Wednesday a proposed rule that would ban anchoring the club to the body, said the major champions were only part of what got their attention. Mike Davis of the USGA and Peter Dawson of the R&A both spoke to a spike in number of players using such putting strokes, how it trickled down to younger golfers, and their concern that the stroke was taking too much of the skill out of the game.

Players could still use a broom-handle or belly putter - as long as it is not pressed against their body to create the effect of a hinge.

``We believe a player should hold the club away from his body and swing it freely,'' Davis said. ``Golf is a game of skill and challenge, and we think that's an important part of it.''

What's next?

As for the rule, the governing bodies will take comments over the next three months to see if it needs to be changed, scrapped or whether the proposal is fine the way it is. Then, it would be approved by the organizations, though it would not take effect until 2016.

What's next for Bradley?

``I'm going to have to really in the next couple of years figure out a way that's going to be best for me to putt,'' Bradley said.

He might end up shaving a few inches off the putter so the stroke is similar, except that it doesn't press against his stomach. Fred Couples has a belly putter that rests against his stomach, but the butt of the club moves freely. It is not hinged. Couples was not sure if that would be legal under the new rule, though he could just imagine the number of phone calls if he was shown on TV using that stroke.

Then again, the odds of the 53-year-old Couples even playing the Champions Tour in 2016 was enough to make him laugh.

U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson already has been using a short putter while at home, and he said he would continue to make the transition and go to the conventional putter when he feels comfortable with it. Bradley has been using a belly putter since he was at college, and he laments the five years of practice with it going to waste.

``Who knows? Maybe there's some way to putt better,'' Bradley said. ``I see myself finding a way to putt.''

Bradley and Simpson are in a difficult spot, for neither wants to look like a group of dissenters. Both said they have respect for the USGA and R&A, and Bradley wanted to make that clear Wednesday at Sherwood Country Club when he said, ``I do understand the USGA is trying to protect the game. I knew they're not doing something maliciously to hurt me or other guys.''

But this already is shaping up to be a divisive issue, from industry leaders worried about the growth of golf to players who have been using these putters for years.

Carl Pettersson of Sweden and Tim Clark of South Africa have used broom-handle putters all their careers, and they have talked about a possible legal recourse. Neither could be reached for comment. Pettersson was in South Africa for the Nedbank Challenge and did not return a phone call.

``Any competitive player likes to have an extra advantage,'' Matt Kuchar said. ``I think you're going find anyone using the short putter is glad, and anyone using the belly putter or long putter is not happy.''

Kuchar used a mid-length putter that rested against his left arm when he won The Players Championship. That style is OK.

Couples wasn't sure golf needed such a rule. His argument is that if the anchored stroke was that much of an advantage, everyone would be using it. He somehow managed to work Rick Barry of the Golden State Warriors into the conversation.

He referred to him as one of the greatest free-throw shooters in NBA history, famous for his underhand shot at the foul line.

``Do you see other guys copying him?'' Couples said. ``Is Keegan Bradley the best putter on tour? Is Webb? So it's a look. They can say all they want, but it's a look. An advantage? You think guys out here are dumb? What's an advantage? You would think if this was such an advantage, everyone would be using it.''

None of the top 20 players on the PGA Tour's most reliable putting statistic used an anchored putting stroke.

``In my opinion, they haven't screwed up golf yet, and I don't think this will screw it up,'' Couples said. ``But I feel bad for Keegan Bradley, because I'll tell you what: If they banned it tomorrow and we played a tournament, I think I'll be a better player than Keegan. And I don't think that's fair.''

In the meantime, the World Challenge gets under way Thursday as the final event of the year for Woods, and the last chance for this 18-man field to earn ranking points. Some will go to the Shark Shootout next week in Florida. The others won't be seen again until next year, either in Hawaii or the desert.

The anchored putting stroke will come again. The debate most likely won't end anytime soon.

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Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

LAS VEGAS—Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom weren’t expecting to lose their head coach less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup.

But business is business, Ovi said, and Barry Trotz is handling his by attempting to capitalize on claiming the championship.

“It’s sad,” Ovechkin said on the red carpet at the NHL Awards, where he accepted his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy on Wednesday night. “Obviously, we won together.”

The Caps’ captain also thanked Trotz for directing him—and his teammates—to new heights.  

“First of all, [I want to] thank him for a great job to be our coach, to be our dad, to give us a chance to win,” Ovechkin said. “But then again, it’s a business. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine and I wish him luck.”

Backstrom, meanwhile, said he was caught off guard by Trotz’s decision to step down over a contract stalemate with the team. Trotz asked for $5 million per for five seasons; the Caps balked over the terms Trotz’s camp sought.   

“I was a little surprised, obviously,” Backstrom said. “I heard the scenario.”

Like Ovechkin, though, Backstrom praised the job Trotz did during his four-year tenure.

“He’s done a great job in Washington,” Backstrom said. “We obviously have him to thank for a lot. He’s done a tremendous job of schooling us and winning a championship. No one is going to take that away from him.”

Trotz’s next move is unclear, but he’s a free agent and currently eligible to negotiate with any team. The Islanders are the only team with an opening for a head coach.

As for Washington, GM Brian MacLellan said that associate coach Todd Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz.

Ovechkin said he thinks Reirden would be a good fit.

“We all respect Todd,” Ovechkin said. “We all like him. Again, it’s not our thing to say who’s going to be head coach, but if it’s going to be Todd, it’s going to be fun.”


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A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

Daniel Duffy on Twitter/@RealArtOfWords

A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

How do you make a photo of Alex Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time even more memorable?

You make it out of all the Capitals' game scores this year, of course.

Capitals fan and artist Daniel Duffy (@RealArtOfWords) posted a phenomenal finished piece commemorating the Cup win on Wednesday, June 20. It's a little meta and astounding to look at, but very fun to try and read. If you want to relive the glory that was the parts of the 2017-18 Capitals season, check out the piece.

The piece, which appears to be done in a traditional medium like pen or marker, holds the team faced, arena played at, and final score of every game. It uses six colors and over sixty lines of text. Ovechkin roars as he holds the Stanley Cup overhead, the white away jersey shaded with bits of grey text. It takes a skilled eye to sort text and colors into shapes and shading, but Daniel did a fantastic job! It's awesome to see a fanbase create different interpretations of iconic moments. We'll surely see more of Ovechkin in this moment.

Just as we thought we were going to get tired of the celebration, fans find new ways to surprise us. Stay creative, Caps fans!