US PGA Tiger Woods World Challenge, Nick Watney Leads

Nick Watney leads the US PGA Tiger Woods World Challenge, presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Sherwood Country Club, Thousand Oaks  in California. Nick leads the event by two shots, after his opening round of -5 under par, 67.

Watney stays hot

Nick Watney / Dunn / Getty Images

Nick is ahead of Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk, who are all at -3 under par, after their rounds of 69.  Graeme McDowell is just one of thirteen Ryder Cup Players who are contesting in this event, making a very strong field indeed. Tiger Woods is in the group at -2 under par 70, he is in good company with Bo Van Pelt and Webb Simpson both on the same score. There are three players at -1 under par, they are Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and Aussie Jason Day. Everybody else is over par, the last player on the board is Brandt Snedeker at +3 over par.

Nick shot a round of  80 in the final round in 2010 and then finished last in the 18-player field last year at Tiger Woods’ World Challenge, he said about today;

“I figured since Tiger is nice enough to invite me, I might as well prepare and try to play well. I’m a little better prepared than I have been coming in here. I’ve come in the past two years pretty rusty, hadn’t been doing much work. This tournament’s definitely not as serious or as cut-throat, maybe, but I think when Sunday comes, we’re all very competitive people. If we’re tied going to the last hole, we definitely want to beat the other guy. Winning this event would be an honor. The list of champions is pretty strong. I think everybody comes here wanting to win even though it’s during the holiday season and all that stuff. I’m trying to use it to prepare for next season, and winning never gets old, so that’s the goal.”

Keegan Bradley said he had played solidly all day,

“I did have a bad break on the last hole, but I played so solidly all day.  The drive on No. 18 was literally resting up against a root, and then just to the right of it was a rock. You know, it was a bad break, but also if it didn’t hit that root it probably would have rolled all the way back down that hill toward the ninth fairway.”

Tiger admitted he did not play to the best of his abilities;

“”I didn’t hit it very good, it was nice to scrape out a good score. I could have easily shot myself out of the tournament, but I kept myself in it.”

Tomorrow is another day, and tournament host Tiger Woods will be keen to assert his authority.

 

Tiger Talks on Rory’s Club Switch

Live Report Image

Rory & Tiger in China/ Wu/ Getty Images

Tiger Woods certainly knows about equipment change, he himself switched from Titleist to Nike in 2000, starting with the Nike Golf Ball, and two years later also switched to Nike Clubs, so he is perfectly placed to advise Rory on the subject. Tiger knows it is a big deal, something that other golfers have not accomplished too well, most recently Rickie Fowler who had been using Titleist driver and irons switched to Cobra, and as yet has not fared too well. At the time of the switch Rickie said;

Obviously they tried to put together something that was as close to the specs as before,” he said. “The shaft, weight, the swing weight, everything like that. It just took a few drivers to get the right setup with the loft and everything, and I’ve actually been hitting it really well, so hopefully this week I’ll be able to pump a few out there. I think they did a very good job preparing themselves and getting everything ready for testing. They did a very good job with the irons getting them similar and comparable to the ones I was playing before [Titleist 712 MB] so there really wasn’t a big transition there. They felt the same, flew the same, so it was basically like putting a new set of what I already had in the bag.”

Ricke and Cobra Bag

Rickie and his Cobra equipment.

At the moment the clubs are not swinging quite the same for Rickie, and it appears it is that sort of conundrum that might affect Rory, this is what Tiger said;

” Any time you make a change in equipment, it’s certainly a big deal, going through the testing process, trying to get the right shaft, and the club head, plus the ball, it’s a challenge. Sometimes it’s taken almost a year, sometimes it’s taken just a few weeks. Is this equipment in general,  going to help me win golf tournaments? If the answer is yes, then it’s in the bag. If the answer is no, then it’s not. But when you get it right, it’s pretty good. It’s a huge process to get to that point, it was very time-consuming. It’s tiring quite frankly because it can take a long time, but it’s worth it in the end if you get it right.”

Michael Bannon, Rory’s swing coach has no doubts about the switch, he said;

He’ll have no problems at all with new equipment. f you look at the clubs he is going to change to, all the shafts are the same. He is also going from blade to blade, which is quite an easy thing to do. The ball is fine, he just has to practice a wee bit more with it and get used to the feel of it. He has to play a few rounds of golf as well, which he hasn’t been able to do with new equipment yet. People overstate what the change could mean. It is something to talk about but I think this will be an easy transition for him. I don’t see it being a problem at all.”

The wonderfully attired late Payne Stewart suffered a season-long slump in 1994 after leaving Wilson for a lucrative deal with Spalding. I know of many friends who have switched clubs recently and some of them have fallen back, citing that  the new clubs do not play quite the same as the old ones, but they are certain things will get better. Lets hope for Rory’s sake the transition is as smooth as silk.

    

Payne Stewart in some of his colorful outfits, he could play well too.

R&A and USGA define Anchoring.Press Release

THE R&A AND USGA ANNOUNCE PROPOSED RULES CHANGE to Prohibit Anchored Strokes

By USGA and The R&A
November 28, 2012
Rule would take effect on January 1, 2016, allowing for transitional period;
Belly-length and long putters would remain as conforming clubs

To see this infographic explaining the proposed Rule 14-1b in full size, click here.

The R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA), golf’s governing bodies, today announced proposed changes to the Rules of Golf that would prohibit anchoring the club in making a stroke.

The proposed Rule 14-1b, which follows an extensive review by The R&A and the USGA, would prohibit strokes made with the club or a hand gripping the club held directly against the player’s body, or with a forearm held against the body to establish an anchor point that indirectly anchors the club.

The proposed new Rule would not alter current equipment rules and would allow the continued use of all conforming golf clubs, including belly-length and long putters, provided such clubs are not anchored during a stroke. The proposed Rule narrowly targets only a few types of strokes, while preserving a golfer’s ability to play a wide variety of strokes in his or her individual style.

Prior to taking a final decision on the proposed Rule, The R&A and the USGA will consider any further comments and suggestions from throughout the golf community.

“We believe we have considered this issue from every angle but given the wide ranging interest in this subject we would like to give stakeholders in the game the opportunity to put forward any new matters for consideration,” said Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A.

Proposed Changes to Rule 14-1
The proposed change would relabel current Rule 14-1 as Rule 14-1a, and establish Rule 14-1b as described below:
14-1b Anchoring the Club
In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.”Note 1: The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.

Note 2: An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.

The proposed Rule change would take effect on January 1, 2016, in accordance with the regular four-year cycle for changes to the Rules of Golf. This timetable would also provide an extended period in which golfers may, if necessary, adapt their method of stroke to the requirements of the Rule.

For more information about the newly proposed Rule, as well as additional information including videos and images of strokes that would be allowed or prohibited by the proposed changes to Rule 14-1, visit RandA.org/anchoring or USGA.org/anchoring.

New Rule Would Define and Preserve the Nature of the Stroke
In proposing the new Rule, The R&A and the USGA concluded that the long-term interests of the game would be served by confirming a stroke as the swinging of the entire club at the ball.

“Throughout the 600-year history of golf, the essence of playing the game has been to grip the club with the hands and swing it freely at the ball,” said USGA Executive Director Mike Davis. “The player’s challenge is to control the movement of the entire club in striking the ball, and anchoring the club alters the nature of that challenge. Our conclusion is that the Rules of Golf should be amended to preserve the traditional character of the golf swing by eliminating the growing practice of anchoring the club.”

New Rule Would Address Recent Developments in the Game
This proposal reflects The R&A’s and USGA’s responsibility to define how the game is to be played. Aspects of how a player must make a stroke have been addressed in past Rules changes, such as the century-old Rule codifying that the ball must be fairly struck and not be pushed, scraped or spooned and the 1968 prohibition on the “croquet” style of putting.

“As governing bodies, we monitor and evaluate playing practices and developments in golf, with our primary mandate being to ensure that the Rules of Golf continue to preserve the fundamental characteristics of the game,” added Davis.

Although anchoring the club is not new, until recently it was uncommon and typically seen as a method of last resort by a small number of players. In the last two years, however, more and more players have adopted the anchored stroke. Golf’s governing bodies have observed this upsurge at all levels of the game and noted that more coaches and players are advocating this method. The decision to act now is based on a strong desire to reverse this trend and to preserve the traditional golf stroke.

“Anchored strokes have become the preferred option for a growing number of players and this has caused us to review these strokes and their impact on the game,” said Dawson. “Our concern is that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional putting strokes which are integral to the longstanding character of the sport.”

Review Process and Timetable
Earlier this year, The R&A and the USGA announced that they were reviewing the subject of anchoring. There has been widespread discussion of the issue throughout the international golf community which has been noted by the governing bodies.

Each organization is expected to take a final decision on the proposed Rule change in spring 2013. Anyone wishing to provide written comments to the appropriate governing body is encouraged to do so by February 28, 2013 as directed on the respective websites: RandA.org/anchoring or USGA.org/anchoring.

BMW NZ Open Champion Jake Progresses to Pro

Jake Higginbottom

Jake Higginbottom / Getty Images

BMW  NZ Open Champion Jake Higginbottom has suddenly decided to progress from Amateur status to Professional following his amazing win at the Clearwater Resort in Christchurch on Sunday. Jake, who could not collect the first prize of $A80,000 on Sunday, originally said he would not rush into professional golf, and would probably turn Pro at the end of next year. I guess his 67 in the final round, withstanding all the pressure from the professionals trying to chase him down, and the lure of all the money available for him to play for has grabbed his attention. Jake’s victory has earned him a two-year exemption on OneAsia Tour and also the PGA Tour of Australia, he also gets automatic entry into the second round of the 2013 US PGA and European PGA Tour qualification schools. The possibilities for him, if he plays well are endless, Jake said he felt comfortable with the move to the professional ranks;

“I’ve discussed this with my team and we’re all very comfortable with the move. I feel that the time is right as I now have playing opportunities in the professional ranks. It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to starting my pro career.”

Jake will play his  first event as a professional at the NSW PGA Championship this week at Mt Broughton Golf and Country Club. Golf Australia director Brad James is pleased that their performance program has produced such a talent;

“This is great news for Jake and exactly what Golf Australia and the State Associations strive to achieve in taking players to the next level. Jake has worked hard over the last 12 months and we’re pleased to see him make the next step in his career.”

We wish Jake well in his career as a professional golfer.

BMW New Zealand Open, Won by Aussie Amateur, Jake Higginbottom

Special victory for Higginbottom

Jake Higginbottom/pga,ord.au

Aussie Amateur Jake Higginbottom was won the BMW New Zealand Open at the Clearwater Resort, with a final round of  -5 under par, 67, and a tournament total of -7 under par. Jake had to fight hard to repel the challenge from fellow Aussie’s Jason Norris and Peter Wilson, who both finished tied for second at -6 under par.

Jake made history by becoming the first amateur golfer for 56 years to be crowned New Zealand Open champion with his one-shot victory in the BMW-sponsored tournament hosted by Christchurch at Clearwater Resort on Sunday. The 19 year-old Ausssie  from New South Wales, started the final round three shots adrift of Mark Brown, New Zealand’s main hope of ending a drought of nine years since a Kiwi held aloft the winner’s silverware, the Brodie Breeze Trophy.

Jake was happy to be beating the professionals, to know he was a good as them;

“It is a great feeling and it means a lot me. It is good to come over here and play against the professionals and know that I am as good as them. Mum was crying and Dad was just happy that I made a good speech. I actually talked about the 18th with my mates before the final round. They asked me what I would do if I had a one shot lead down the last and I told them I would just rip one down there.I was most nervous when I had that short putt on the last but it was nice to see that drop and to win is really good. It was good to be a couple behind after the front nine because I knew that I had to make birdies. That is what I did so it was good.”

Mark Brown summed up his disappointing day with the putter, he finished fourth after his +1 over par last round;

” I played well enough, I played beautifully for first 10 holes and didn’t miss a shot.But I only really holed one putt and had 34 for the day which is never going to win a golf tournament. I don’t know, I didn’t start them on line so there’s a technical issue there. I gave myself a lot of chances and think I hit 33 greens for the last 36 holes so that’s a lot of chances I didn’t take. It’s frustration and probably been a career thing for me so I’ve got to get better if I want to reach the goals I want to meet. I’ll go away, work hard, and try and get better.”

So New Zealand will have to wait another year before the chance of having another Kiwi winning the BMW New Zealand Open.

DP World Tour Championship, Rory Signs Off in Style.

Race to Dubai Champion and DP World Tour Champion

Race to Dubai Champion and DP World Tour Champion Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy signed off on his remarkable season by winning the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Earth Course, on Sunday. Rory’s last round of -6 under par 66, gave him a tournament totel of -23 under par, two shots ahead of his nearest rival, who was Justin Rose. Rory said his year had been “Unbelievable.”  He had heard the cheers around the course as Justin came charging through the field, and watched as Justin birdied the last, the par five eighteenth from around 100 feet.

“I saw Justin make a charge, I heard the cheers, 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. Today I went out with a target of 22 under par, which I thought would be enough to win so making it to 23 under par gave me a bit of a cushion.”

Justin’s compensation for his Earth Course record of -10 under par last round 62, and second place at -21 under par, is fourth spot in the World Golf Rankings, pushing down Lee Westwood, the first time Lee has been outside the top four in three years. He played the last six holes in -6 under par, and also has the memory of that 100 foot putt, that everybody thought was actually going in. It would have been even more miraculous than the Ryder Cup birdie against Phil Mickleson. The putt looked like it was going to stop at the top of the ridge, but then gently trickled down to the side of the hole, Justin summed it up as:

“Probably four Mickelsons, maybe five. I knew it was hero or zero there, I was one roll away from looking like an idiot. I actually got goosebumps. I thought it was going to go in for a second.”

Luke Donald went 102 holes without a bogey, but sadly finished his tournament with a last round of -1 under par 71, tied in third place with South African Charl Schwartzel, both completed the tournament at -18 under par.

But the day, and the year, belonged to Rory McIlroy, lets hope he can continue the good form next year. It is always hard to follow a really good year with another, and even more of a challenge for Rory, as he has decided to change his clubs for next year, no more Titleist, it is rumored he will now play Nike. Rickie Fowler has not played so well since his switch to Cobra, lets trust that Rory has not made the same mistake.

DP World Tour Championship, Its Luke and Rory Tied at the Top

Luke Donald v Rory McIlroy at the DP World Tour Championship  (Getty Images)

Luke & Rory/ Getty Images

The World number one Rory McIlroy and World number two Luke Donald are tied at the top of the DP World Tour Championship after three rounds at the Jumeirah Golf Estates Earth Course in Dubai. Both of these splendid players have a Tournament score of -17 under par, attaining that number with third rounds of -6 under par 66’s.

 Luke  has amazingly extended his bogey free run at Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Earth Course to 100 holes, that was good enough to distance himself from the rest of the field, with the exception of the World number one Rory, who started with a bogey at the first, but that was cancelled out by five birdies and an eagle at the long 14th.

100 holes without a bogey at this tournament, Luke could not believe it:

I’m not sure I can believe that, that’s pretty good. I guess that’s my style, I don’t make too many mistakes. It’s going to be fun, great for the crowd and everyone watching around the world. Hopefully we can make some birdies.”

Rory said he had suffered another bad night with his fever, it did not show his golf;

I woke up at four and was not feeling great, but I guess the adrenaline keeps you going when playing, “

When informed about Luke’s wondrous  run without a bogey, Rory smiled and replied,

He must be due one. I think everyone is looking forward to the Number One and Number Two duel tomorrow, and that’s the way it’s panned out. I know I’m excited about it, and I’m sure a lot of people are. It will be a great way to finish the 2012 European Tour season.”

Joint halfway leader Marc Warren could only manage a par round of 72 to stay at -11 under par, now six shots behind Luke and Rory. Tied in second place at -14 under par are South African Major Champions Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, with four-time European Tour winner Branden Grace and Dutchman Joost Luiten two shots further back at -12 under par.

Given the Status of the leading pair, everyone else is probably too far back to make an impact in this Tournament, so it’s down to Luke and Rory to put on a show for the watching and waiting World.