Capitals

Defining the art of putting

201211280035021340682-p2.jpeg

Defining the art of putting

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley, two of the major faces in the debate over belly putters, said Tuesday they would not fight a change in the rules if golf's governing bodies decide to outlaw putters anchored to the body.

That doesn't mean they're in favor of a ban.

``I'm obviously not happy with the ruling, but I respect the USGA, and especially Mike Davis,'' Bradley said. ``They make the rules, and I'll adjust appropriately. But I'm going to accept the challenge and hopefully do well when they do ban it.''

Davis, the USGA executive director, and Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson have scheduled a press conference Wednesday morning to announce their conclusions on the future of long putters. All indications point toward a ban on anchoring the club.

At issue is not the putter itself, but whether it can be anchored to the body, such as the stomach (belly putters) or the chest (long putters).

The long putters have been in vogue for the better part of 25 years, though a recent surge in use got the attention of golf's two governing bodies. Bradley became the first major champion with a belly putter when he won the PGA Championship last year. Simpson won the U.S. Open using a belly putter, and Ernie Els won the British Open with a belly putter, rallying to beat Adam Scott, who uses a long putter he anchors to the top of his chest.

Guan Tianling, the 14-year-old from China, used a belly putter to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur earlier this month to earn a spot in the Masters.

Dawson spoke in July about looking at the anchored putters as a rules issue instead of an equipment issue. If that's the case and it is banned, it would not take effect until 2016 because the Rules of Golf are only updated every four years.

While a change would affect players like the recent major champions, Carl Pettersson and Tim Clark, several others are opposed to putters stuck into the body. They argue it takes away nervous hands and allows for a smoother stroke.

Tiger Woods is opposed to long putters, and he stated his argument clearly on Tuesday.

``I just believe that the art of putting is swinging the club and controlling nerves, and having it as a fixed point - as I was saying all year - is something that's not in the traditions of the game,'' Woods said. ``We swing all other 13 clubs. I think the putter should be the same. It should be a swinging motion throughout the entire bag.''

Woods said his biggest concern was not so much the major champions, but junior players.

``There have been some guys who had had success out there, and obviously everyone always copies what we out here, and that's something that I think for the greater good of the game needs to be adjusted,'' he said.

Simpson first switched to a belly putter in 2004 to help with consistency. He found one in a pro shop, gave it a try and noticed immediate improvement. But for all the attention on belly putters, he said it was the accuracy with his driver that helped him win the U.S. Open at Olympic Club this year.

``My argument the whole time is to change something that drastic, it needs to be based off facts and not what certain people think the tradition of the game looks like,'' Simpson said. ``But look, I'm not going to be one of those guys that says this is a terrible decision. I'm just saying to make a change this big, show me the facts. And hey, they're the governing body, so we'll see what happens.''

Simpson already has been practicing with a conventional putter, preparing for such a ban. He said if there is a ban, he would use the conventional putter at home, and then in pro-am rounds and make the switch when he's comfortable with it.

``I'm just going to take it one step at a time until my comfort level gets better and better,'' Simpson said. ``If I feel ready by Hyundai (the start of the 2013 season), I'll be putting with a short putter. And if I don't feel ready for two years, I'll wait.''

Bradley said he would be in no rush to make the change if there is a ban.

Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter were among those who lined up against anchored putters earlier this month in Australia. McDowell said the rule should have been changed years ago, and that using an anchored putter ``takes one extraneous movement out of the putting stroke,'' which he feels is an advantage under pressure.

Poulter, as usual, was more blunt.

``Ban it. End of story,'' Poulter said.

Steve Stricker, regarded as one of the best putters in golf, has picked up a belly putter to see what the rage was all about. And it concerned him.

``It was pretty scary how fast I picked it up, to tell you the truth,'' Stricker said. ``I went and anchored it just right below my sternum. It was a little different feel for me, but I got pretty consistent pretty quick with it. So I can see that there was an advantage, even though I can't see myself ever doing it.''

Quick Links

Ovechkin scores again, Capitals win fifth straight 4-3 over Buffalo

Ovechkin scores again, Capitals win fifth straight 4-3 over Buffalo

CAPITAL ONE ARENA — To hear Alex Ovechkin tell it, Saturday night was a rough one for him.

“I have pretty good chances, but today, it was not my day,” Ovechkin said. “You can't score every night."

You wonder if Ovechkin watched the contest he just played in. He scored a goal for the sixth game in a row in a 4-3 shootout win against the Buffalo Sabres. He had a game-high eight shots on goal. He set a new career-high point scoring streak (14 games). He had the goal that proved to be the winner in the shootout. He leads the NHL with 29 goals and no one else is even close. Things are going pretty well. 

“Such a threat, especially when he’s confident and he’s shooting the puck where he wants,” teammate Brett Connolly said. “[Ovechkin is] a bull out there, it seems like he keeps getting better and better every year. Such a hungriness to score goals. He’s having a hell of a season and it doesn’t look like he’s going to slow down. We’ve got to as a team really rally around that. When he’s playing that well you want to have guys really look at that and take it another level and fall in behind that.” 

Only five players age 33 or older have had a longer point streak than Ovechkin’s 14 games. His next goal will secure his 14th30-goal season. He has 23 points during this stretch (17 goals, six assists). You run out of superlatives. 

The same goes for his team. On the heels of a hat trick in Carolina on Friday, Ovechkin helped Washington to its fifth win in a row. The Capitals are 13-3 in their past 16 games and swept a back-to-back set with the Hurricanes and Sabres. Washington is 20-9-3 and with 43 points is six up on second place Columbus in the Metropolitan Division and seven ahead of third-place Pittsburgh. 

Things weren’t perfect on Saturday. The Sabres scored twice on the power play to make it 3-2 before Ovechkin tied it with a booming slap shot after a turnover at 13:46 of the second period. Pheonix Copley stopped 25 of 28 shots subbing for No. 1 goalie Braden Holtby, but the penalty kill continues to tank. 

Buffalo scored twice on the power play to take the lead and the first goal of the game by rising star Jack Eichel came exactly two minutes after a Michal Kempny penalty. You can count that as another if you’d like. Close as it gets. Considering Washington coach Todd Reirden put Chandler Stephenson back into the lineup Saturday because of his prowess on the PK, that’s a bad sign. 

So there are things to work on. But the Capitals are in a good position in the standings. Their stars are scoring. Their injury situation has improved somewhat with defenseman Brooks Orpik on the way by the end of the month. It’s only mid December and there are 50 games to go and things can change in a heartbeat and the playoffs seem forever away. But, for now anyway, life is good.      

“It wasn’t an easy night, but definitely we worked for those last two win,” Connolly said. “It’s a lot of fun right now. Everyone is having fun, everyone is positive and happy. It’s always so much better when you’re winning.” 


MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

4 reasons the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout

4 reasons the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout

Both Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals extended their streaks on Saturday in a 4-3 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres. Ovechkin's second period goal extended his point streak to 14 games, a career best, and Washington notched its fifth straight win.

Here are four reasons the Caps won.

A quick response

Similar to Friday’s game in Carolina, the Caps yielded the first goal very early into the game as Jack Eichel scored less than three minutes in. Just 58 seconds later, however, Brett Connolly erased the deficit with a goal set up by the hard work of Devante Smith-Pelly.

Buffalo goalie Carter Hutton went to retrieve a puck behind the net, but Smith-Pelly pressured him on the forecheck and stole it away. He passed it to Connolly in front and he had an easy layup with Hutton out of the net.

Alex Ovechkin

He did it again.

You would think at this point there was nothing more Ovechkin could do to wow us, but you would be wrong. Though he did not continue his hat trick streak, Ovechkin did in fact extend his point streak to a career-high 14 games with a second period strike that tied the game at three.

Orlov broke up a breakout by Buffalo in the offensive zone and Nicklas Backstrom uickly fired a beautiful pass through traffic to find a wheeling Ovechkin who had plenty of time and space for the wind up to beat Hutton.

Ovechkin now has 17 goals and six assists over the 14-game streak. His goal was his league-leading 29th of the season.

As if that wasn’t enough, Ovechkin also scored the game-winner in the shootout.

Evgeny Kuznetsov

All eyes are on Ovechkin and his point streak, but Kuznetov is putting together a nice little point streak of his own. With an assist on Jakub Vrana’s first period goal, Kuznetsov extended his point streak to eight games. He has one goal and nine assists in that stretch. Kuznetsov also scored in the shootout.

A horrible miss

With about a minute left in the game and the score tied at 3, Sam Reinhart had the game on his stick. Jeff Skinner skated in to a sharp angle and fired a shot up high on Copley. Copley stopped it, but couldn’t control it and the puck rebound fell to Reinhart in the slot with an empty net yawning. Reinhart tried to fire the bouncing puck into the net, but instead hit it off the post behind a helpless Copley. Vrana got his stick down in a desperate attempt to block the shot, but it looked like he did not get a piece of it, Reinhart just could not control the puck enough to hit it home and score what would have almost certainly been the game-winning goal.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: