PGA Tour Confidential: 2012 Season in Review

Ernie Els, British Open, 2012
Robert Beck/SI
Ernie Els won the British Open at Royal Lytham with the help of an anchored putter. The anchoring technique will be banned beginning in 2016.

THE YEAR THAT WAS
Van Sickle: Besides Rory and Tiger, what else was significant? Anyone who says the FedEx Cup will be flogged.

Shipnuck: How about Stacy Lewis being the LPGA Player of the Year? In a more just world, she'd be SI's Sportsperson of the Year. To be in a back brace years ago, think you're never going to play golf and then win that award during a time of Asian domination in women's golf -- that's amazing. Stacy is a breath of fresh air. She hasn't gotten enough attention.

Bamberger: I absolutely agree. What John said earlier was important too. The theme for 2012 was, No lead is safe. It was a reminder that as the modern swing gets closer to technical perfection, golf still comes down to holding it together mentally. There's no video lesson for that.

(Related Photos: SI's Best Photos from 2012)

Garrity: The no-lead-is-safe theme applies even to acknowledged dominance. On the LPGA, Yani Tseng's performance was so remarkable and overpowering that we all shared the belief that she'd be a commanding presence for years to come. Six months later she was practically an afterthought.

Bamberger: Even Rory had a weird run of bad play for 10 weeks after he held off Tiger at the Honda in March.

Anonymous Pro: What ever happened to Hunter Mahan? Your game really has to disappear if you win twice, including a World Golf Championship, and still don't make the Ryder Cup team. And Jim Furyk used to be a closer, but it was tough to watch him with no finishing kick at Olympic, Firestone and Medinah. There's nowhere to go but down if you're Number 1, and unfortunately, Luke Donald proved it.

Bamberger: We also learned that if you're following only Americans, you can't keep up with golf. The game has truly gone global with impressive international players like Peter Hanson, Nicolas Colsaerts, Ryo Ishikawa and Alvaro Quiros, among others.

Anonymous Pro: I guess that's good for the game. I hate it, though, when I show up at the 1st tee and wish I had a translator.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What was your favorite moment of the season?

BELLY UP TO THE BAN, BOYS
Van Sickle: As expected, the USGA and R&A announced plans to ban anchored putting techniques starting in 2016. What kind of fallout will there be?

Anonymous Pro: You can start by passing out asterisks to Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els, who won majors by doing something that won't be allowed. If I were them, I'd be unhappy not only about the ban but also about how it reflects on the biggest win of my career.

Shipnuck: The most ridiculous part is the three-year limbo. You're Ernie Els, you're 43, and the belly putter rejuvenated your career. You have a short window to win a few more majors. Do you switch back to a short putter or do you keep using the belly? And if Ernie completes the career Grand Slam, is it tainted? If the USGA and R&A had any backbone, they would've made this effective for 2013. Now we have to talk about this for three more years. Kill me now.

(Related Photos: Pros Affected by the Anchor Ban)

Anonymous Pro: I guarantee this rule will have a big impact. Keegan and Webb can say what they want, but every player using a belly or a long putter uses it for a reason. Some guys, when they pull their short putter out of the bag again, are going to feel as if they're grabbing a cobra. I see sleepless nights ahead.

Van Sickle: This rule may or may not end careers, but it will turn some regular winners into middle-of-the-pack players. Golf, after all, is about making putts.

Garrity: This ruling won't destroy Keegan or Webb or Ernie or Adam Scott. These guys have three years to transition back. There are players on the Champions tour, however, who can't play without a broomstick. It will be a real setback for that tour, which can't afford to lose any of its stars.

Bamberger: We're being too harsh on the USGA. Yes, they blew it on metal heads, big heads, graphite shafts, grooves and balls. Now they're overcompensating. But I agree that you should hold a golf club with your hands, and I respect the USGA as the game's governing body. This is what they don't get paid to do -- tell us what's O.K. and what's not.

Shipnuck: No data was presented, only anecdotal evidence. This comes down to a handful of tweedy old guys who run the game not liking the look of anchoring.

Van Sickle: If the game went down the wrong path, and I'm not saying it did, it's because the USGA led us there. It put its stamp of approval on all these putters knowing full well exactly how they were going to be used. Some players have invested 10 or 20 years using approved putting styles that now are suddenly disallowed because -- wait -- the USGA doesn't like the way it looks? That's not a good enough reason.

Garrity: I've been an agnostic on long putters from the start, maybe because I'm 6'7" and too tall to be an effective ball roller. I see no evidence that anchored putters have an advantage, and I don't care how anchored putting looks. Even if it does help, so what? Do I really want to chase Ernie Els and Adam Scott out of the game?

Shipnuck: I have a hard time buying what the USGA and R&A are selling. Both have lost so much credibility as stewards of the game at the professional level. They'll take on fringe issues like anchoring or grooves, but are afraid to tackle equipment, which is having a profound impact on golf. It's ironic, in a sad way, that the anchoring decision was handed down just as it was announced that the Old Course would be desecrated for the 2015 Open.

Bamberger: Look, the USGA does many things well. They run a nice U.S. Open. They're trying to do the right thing here; they're simply 30 years late.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What do you think of the anchor ban?

This article originally appeared in the December 10, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated, on newstands now.

 

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