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Why we botched the anchored putter ban, and what we can do about it

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Now let me start by saying this: I use a traditional putter and so, to a degree, I don’t really have a dog in the anchored-putter fight.

On top of that, I love and respect the USGA and the R&A for all they do to preserve and protect the integrity of the game, as well as to grow it. We need governing bodies in golf, and we need the governing bodies to continue to work together as they do or the rules by which it is played all over the world will become fractured and subject to potentially dubious influence. The rules, as they stand, are confusing and voluminous enough without having a different set by which to play, depending upon where in the world you are.

That being said, the ruling bodies collectively botched this one. With two years to come up with a suitable interpretation for their intention, and what they believed would serve to protect the spirit of the game, it would seem in this case they suffered from nothing more than that age-old golfer’s infliction: paralysis from analysis. So before I get to my solution, let me first start with the reasons why I believe what the ruling bodies came up with for the anchored putter ban was wrong, why it has the potential to hurt the game, and why it comes at the worst possible time.

It’s not an unfair advantage

Anchored putters have been around for a long, long time, and while belly-putters are the newer kid on the block, Phil Rogers first used one in competition in the 1960s. I could give you all the brain science to back it up, but the fact is, if anchored putters were really such a huge advantage they would have been adopted en masse a long time ago by all the players on the various tours. They play golf for a living; it’s how they pay their mortgages and trust me, their often king-size egos aren’t so big that the majority of them wouldn’t adopt a new piece of allowable equipment if it really gave them an advantage. You don’t see hordes of touring professionals clinging to their persimmons and steel-shafted drivers out of tradition. When it became clear that metal, graphite, and titanium were obviously better options, they dropped that old stuff like a bad habit.

Disputes

While the USGA and R&A govern golf, they’re not involved in the day-to-day operations, and their interpretation of this new rule has set us who do up for endless disputes — like the controversy over what Bernhard Langer did while winning his first tournament after the anchor ban. Unlike Adam Scott, many who use anchored putters won’t abandon them altogether, and trying to determine whether or not a player’s forearm is actually touching his body or not, especially in cold weather where players are wearing bulky jackets and many layers, is pretty much impossible and unenforceable.

Since Jan. 1, I’ve had to get in the middle of more disputes between members than I have in 25 years, and every one has been about whether or not a certain player was anchoring.

A major fix to a minor problem

When golf’s governing bodies made the decision to ban anchored putting, a big part of the discussion had to do with their concern over the rise in popularity of belly putters and their increased use among tour players and younger players. The problem is that segment of golf’s participants comprises less than 1 percent of those who play the game.

Most players who used anchored putters were just the regular Joes trying desperately to find something that would help them get through a putting slump or a case of the yips. If golf’s governing bodies really wanted to stem the supposed tide of adoption without hurting the regular guy or gal, they could have just worked with the PGA Tour to adopt a policy restricting their use in major competition.

Just about every young amateur that has any game at all dreams of playing in the big show, and kids emulate their idols. You should have seen the near perfect cross-handed impression of Jordan Spieth I witnessed from a 10-year-old at an event recently, but I digress.

You’re not going to see kids adopting things that won’t be allowable once they do qualify to play in a big event some day, and if the Tour players weren’t using them, it wouldn’t be long before anchored putters would be seen by the next generation as an old-man’s club that no decent player would be caught dead with.

Discrimination and abuse

Success after the broomstick? Adam Scott is proving it's possible, but can average golfers find the same success?

Success after the broomstick? Adam Scott is proving it’s possible, but can average golfers find the same success?

If you’ve read the text of the new rule or have seen the posters the USGA spent considerable expense putting out, one thing becomes immediately apparent. Despite all they hysteria over belly-putting, the new rule likely impacts golfers who used long putters, or the broomstick-style of putting the most.

Anchoring your forearms against your body is OK if you’re putting traditionally, but it’s not if your putter is longer and/or you’re using a split-hand grip with the top hand inverted? I guess the USGA figured out pretty quickly that certain body types (read big bellies) wouldn’t be able to putt even in a traditional manner if they just said your forearms can’t touch your body, so they came up with an interpretation that would leave those guys alone while still attempting to eliminate any similar stabilizing ability for those with a longer wand.

The way the rule is written, it’s OK for me to anchor my forearms against my sides (read: belly) as long as I don’t invert the top one and or split the hands. But if I essentially do the same thing with my top hand hanging down, as long as the hands at least touch each other (read: aren’t split) I’m good? According to the rules I am, but if you’re confused by now without the aid of all the fancy infographics that the USGA has provided us then you get my point.

Timing

Golf’s highly publicized drop in participation over the past half-dozen years is nothing to sneeze at. And at a time when we need to be doing most everything we can to not only attract new players, but retain the players we have, we don’t need to be doing anything that turns off many avid players to playing or playing more. And I’m sure the level of discouragement I’ve seen among a handful of players at my own club is going on simultaneously around the country and the world.

When the Mayo Clinic studied the yips a few years back, they did one survey whose results claimed that upward of 25 percent of the people who gave up golf did so because of the yips. An estimated 10-15 percent of players used some form of a long or anchored putter to help them play this great game before the ban. Now I don’t think all of those golfers are going to just up and quit. Many will grumble, adjust, and move on to some other putting method that allows them to putt just poorly enough to stay in the game at some level, but is that really what we want? Do we want to make the game less enjoyable for people who already love it, and at the same time run the risk of taking the fun out of it for a small percentage so much so that they consider giving it up?

A Fix

So now that I’ve told you essentially why I believe this crusade against the unconventional among us is more than just a bit wrong-headed, let me tell you what we could and should have done instead, and how we can walk it back a bit.

In my heart of hearts, I agree with the sentiment behind what the USGA and R&A were trying to do. I’m a traditionalist and want to see the game’s great traditions preserved and respected. But long and belly putters have been around for a long time now, so I think at this point they almost qualify. If we are really hard set on banning anchoring, not the length of our putters, I get that. It would have been much simpler, fairer, easier to enforce, and would have created far less confusion, however, if Rule 14-1b simply said:

No part of the club may touch any part of the body other than the hands, and the hands are considered to be part of the club.

That’s it.

With that change, all this anchoring stuff would have been a moot point. It would have left Langer and most of his broomstick brethren alone, but would have essentially eliminated most forms of anchoring (like the scary belly-putter phenomenon) in a way that would have been far easier to enforce and interpret.

How can we walk it back? That one’s easy, and while the USGA and R&A may have a bit of egg on their face in the short term, a statement about the difficulty of enforcement of the rule under how it’s currently written would satisfy most players and allow them to save face while creating an enormous amount of goodwill among a segment of players that they have at this point alienated.

Everyone makes mistakes, but ultimately, the people we most respect own up, learn, and grow from those mistakes. And what we should learn from this one is that, despite the best of intentions, this wasn’t the best move we could have made and it certainly didn’t come at the best time.

I’d love to hear what you think.

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Mike Dowd is the author of the new novel COMING HOME and the Lessons from the Golf Guru: Wit, Wisdom, Mind-Tricks & Mysticism for Golf and Life series. He has been Head PGA Professional at Oakdale Golf & CC in Oakdale, California since 2001, and is serving his third term on the NCPGA Board of Directors and Chairs the Growth of the Game Committee. Mike has introduced thousands of people to the game and has coached players that have played golf collegiately at the University of Hawaii, San Francisco, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, University of the Pacific, C.S.U. Sacramento, C.S.U. Stanislaus, C.S.U. Chico, and Missouri Valley State, as men and women on the professional tours. Mike currently lives in Turlock, California with his wife and their two aspiring LPGA stars, where he serves on the Turlock Community Theatre Board, is the past Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission and is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Turlock. In his spare time (what's that?) he enjoys playing golf with his girls, writing, music, fishing and following the foibles of the Sacramento Kings, the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants, and, of course, the PGA Tour. You can find Mike at mikedowdgolf.com.

80 Comments

80 Comments

  1. Dennis

    Jun 8, 2022 at 11:24 am

    simple fix is to limit the length of the putter to about 38 inches.

  2. Richard J Coon

    Aug 31, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    When in comes to integrity, perception is reality. I would urge a length restriction on the putter.

  3. dtruman

    Feb 8, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    There have been some video clips showing that Langer was anchoring and there have been some also showing him not anchoring. I suggest they warn him that they will be monitoring him very closely for five tournaments. Then compare it to five tournaments he is not monitored. If there is a significant difference, then further investigating will be needed.

  4. peter collins

    Dec 8, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    I don’t want to spend my time when playing, to see if my partner is anchoring his putter.
    The moment he pulls that thing out of his bag, my game is over.

  5. ALF

    Oct 30, 2017 at 2:06 am

    I will not watch Champions Golf until these cheaters are forced to change their ways. Thanks. I needed to vent. The “ruling bodies “ have ceased to rule.

  6. Felchone

    Oct 29, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Golf’s hard and if long putters or anchoring make it more enjoyable for some than whats the issue? Offset drivers, super gi irons, perimeter weighting, adjustable jumbo drivers, hybrids, speedfoam, jailbreak, juiced balls, graphite shafts, super grooves, blah, blah, blah, blah. Every one of these things exists to make the game easier for the user, and we all have at least some of them in our bags. Play the game against yourself and the course the way you’re supposed to, and lets not be blind to our own hypocrisy.

  7. Steve

    Oct 27, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    One of the main reasons we are still revisiting this issue is because of B Langer — whose reputation and likeability are sacred. Scotty McC should be donating a portion of his winnings to Langer, cuz if McCarron were the lone ranger on this, he would likely have been DQ’d and fighting this in court. With Langer, he has a shield and immunity for the foreseeable future.

  8. Felipe Aspillaga

    Oct 27, 2017 at 8:48 am

    If you think little Tommy Morrison (and others with super-human abilities) is an incredible inspiration and is great for the game of golf, although your rule suggestion is simple, it would render his swing “illegal”…and a travesty.

  9. Jacked_Loft

    Oct 27, 2017 at 5:05 am

    The USGA and the R&A are simply archaic in thier thoght processes. Imagine where the high jump would be today if the “Fosbery Flop” had been deemed non-conforming.

    • 097

      Oct 27, 2017 at 10:49 am

      The Olympics is archaic. Imagine if we didn’t have the Olympics. We would be in far more peaceful world without ugly competition, and drug, HGH and Roid-free.

  10. Old Gaffer

    Oct 27, 2017 at 1:38 am

    Everybody is an expert on politics, religion, sports, sex … and long putters 😉

  11. Tour Grinder

    Oct 26, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    Tom Watson has spoken numerous times on this very subject…very intelligently and very convincingly. Yet, because he’s over 60 and pushing 70, fewer and fewer people want to listen to him. Watson’s putting went south years ago due to y*ps, especially short putting, but he never went to any longer putters or anchored putting because he didn’t believe it was right or proper. He’s not a stick in the mud or someone who tests a hypothesis by using his wife’s clubs; he’s just a Hall of Famer who knows what he’s talking about. Idea for next article: get Watson interviewed and with quotes. All the people who seem to believe it doesn’t matter, or doesn’t establish an unfair advantage would fade into the woodwork.

    • JJVas

      Oct 27, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Nah, we’ll just pass on his reactionary views quicker than the entire Ryder Cup crew did. How did that end up working out? If he wasn’t so archaic in his thinking, maybe he would have won a major after my 8th birthday.

      • Tommy

        Nov 25, 2017 at 8:38 pm

        Really!?….you’re going to criticize Tom Watson’s competitive record? Good luck with that.

    • 2putttom

      Oct 28, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      there are arguments for and against the use of the “long putters” on tour. If it has a distinct advantage for a player in competition the more of the pro’s would have used them.

      • Tour Grinder

        Oct 29, 2017 at 10:44 am

        This is why they should mandate college classes in philosophic logic. Nobody wants to think or reason logically anymore. The longer putters and anchored putters are NOT a DISTINCT advantage for EVERY golfer. Nobody ever said or claimed that. They are only a DISTINCT advantage for those golfers who can no longer putt with reasonable nerves, without flinching and yipping. In other words, these are nothing but crutches for those who can no longer function successfully with anything else. Yes, if these implements had been a distinct advantage for EVERY golfer, then yes, every golfer would be using them. Nobody’s ever said that. If Brad Faxon could putt better with a long or anchored putter, he would have done so years ago. But his methods and techniques and putter length are ideal for him, personally. However, anchored putters were indeed an advantage for the golfers who NEEDED them and appreciated them being a DISTINCT advantage. I can no longer hit a bullet-straight drive 300+ yards down the middle of the fairway anymore. Should I be allowed some kind of new or “non-archaic” club or implement to allow me to hit a drive automatically straight down the middle 300 yards? If I invented one, would that automatically make me a “with it” golfer of today?

  12. M. Vegas

    Oct 26, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    I don’t think a player should be allowed to tap the ball in with the back of his/her putter….
    That’s not the intended use, 2 stroke penalty

    • Anthony

      Nov 2, 2017 at 7:31 pm

      Well that’s a silly comment, what about the good old Bullseye double sided putter? that’s ancient and still allowed? As long as you make a stroke at the ball, putt it in with ya bloody hybrid or wedge….

  13. RG

    Oct 26, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    If long putters or anchoring was an advantage,or made one a better putter I would do it. I do not. That argument is ridiculous. It’s just like box grooves, they do not make you a better player. Has ANYTHING happened to scoring since these two things have been banned? NO! The USGA and R7A simply need justification for their existence so every few years they make up some new rule or eliminate some old rule. None of it matters.
    I recently did an experiment. I played a whole round of golf using my fiancee’s clubs. Pink shafted generic set. Used only the worst balls I could find out of my shag bag. shot 78 from 6800 at Harmony. It doesnt matter guys. I didnt like the feel. I hated the look, but I hit it straight, I got uo and down and I made putts, WITH HER PUTTER! If you have a swing you can whitle a tree branch and hit a ball. If you can putt, you can putt. If you cant anchoring or square grooves aint gonna help ya.

  14. Jim

    Oct 26, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Your solution sounds good, but where does it leave Pro golfers like Matt Kucher and Wes Simpson?? They anchor to the left forearm.

  15. alanp

    Oct 26, 2017 at 7:23 am

    did the author just wake up from a time capsule?

  16. Jeffrey

    Oct 26, 2017 at 3:49 am

    Get the ball in the hole anyway you want with what ever you want. Sounds like fun to me.

    • Rulez

      Oct 26, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      Aaaaaah and there’s the rub. They should ban the use of any club except the putter on the greens in the modern game, but allow for spike marks to be fixed. That’s more important. No more belly wedges, no more hybrids on the greens, etc.

  17. Steve

    Oct 26, 2017 at 1:17 am

    If your not going to outlaw a long putter then why in world would you outlaw how some one uses it?? Did they outlaw players for the way they swing a golf club because Jim Furyk sure makes a lot of money with the way he found to use golf clubs…John Daly has become a folk legend over swinging his clubs and isn’t that a miss use of a club and a huge advantage for him (in the past). How about a right handed guy playing left handed? Is there a rule a player cannot be in motion while making a stroke, can a player place the ball two feet behind his back foot and hit it from there….how about the player that holds his wedge (anchored) by his two hands and just turns his body back and forward chipping the ball?? Ban the club or do not ban how it is used…

  18. The dude

    Oct 25, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Biomech……(mic drop)

  19. Cir

    Oct 25, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    I think we should also get rid of alignment aids like different colors and lines, as well as mallet putters that are bigger than 10cm x 10cm. I mean who wants to putt with contraptions that have red, black, white or circles for alignment aid, anyways? lol

  20. Mike Mielenz

    Oct 25, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    Peter Dawson, the head of the R&A, made a little-noticed comment several years ago that was reported by The Golf Channel. Peter had just witnessed a player at a tournament putt with a long putter and said to an associate, “That doesn’t look right. I’m going to do something about that.” He then basically held the USGA hostage under threat of bifurcating the rules, by saying that the R&A was going to rule against long putters and if the USGA didn’t agree to go along, the R&A were going to go their own way. Under threat of having the rules different at the USA and Mexico than elsewhere in the world, with the resulting confusion among worldwide tournament players, Mike Davis took the high road and got the USGA to agree to go along with the ban, assuming a reasonable rule could be found. What followed was a lengthy period where both ruling bodies finally settled on doing away with anchoring as a solution to the long putter problem, in the absence of another way to get rid of the long putters. After all, a 40″ putter might be traditional length for someone 6″ 6″, while it could be a chest-length putter for someone 5′ 0″, so specifying length would not be logical. All this was done to placate Peter Dawson, who then retired. I then suggested to Mike Davis that with Peter gone the rule might be rescinded, but he declined to re-open the issue with so much water having gone over the dam. So thanks to Peter Dawson for opening this can of worms in the first place, and meanwhile the long putters he determined to do away with are still around.

    • Rulez

      Oct 26, 2017 at 3:34 am

      Small balls? That’s also how it was with the R&A. Until somebody realized that it’s easier to make money making the same balls and selling it all over the world.
      After all, equipment is a large part of how the industry moves itself along.

  21. Mike

    Oct 25, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    It’s all too simple to fix: Max length of any club should be 40″

  22. nobody2u

    Oct 25, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    I got tired of reading and just wanted to probably repeat the real old guy’s that started playing in the 50’s. Langer should have never been able to use the long putter, he should never been able to play as slow as he does. In my opinion he single hand-idly ruined the true game. I’m glad that something is being done about about it even after he has won everything that could be won. So what if he stops winning, he should have a pile of cash higher than a show dog can jump over by now anyway. He started doing it and it caused a bunch of guys to start winning that turned it into rubbing it in the other guy’s faces. Wipe that s##t eating grin off the illegal club users and get it back to real golf. PS, I’m not going to read any more articles after I finish this, the crybaby’s that are using the long putters should form another group and play their own league some place else, like a croquet course in their back yards.

    • JJVas

      Oct 25, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      How are those hickory shafted blades treating you? Just don’t cry about it too much, because those tears slow down the greens, and my long putter works better when they’re at 10+.

    • Tom1

      Oct 25, 2017 at 9:45 pm

      nobody you don’t watch the champions tour do a?

  23. Steve Frishmuth

    Oct 25, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Why not just limit the length of the putter to certain # of inches. …..say 40″….and handle can’t touch your torso

    • Rulez

      Oct 26, 2017 at 3:37 am

      Can’t do that, if you have other clubs longer than that, say, your woods? Because in the end, the game is just about getting the ball in the hole, no matter what equipment you use in the bag as long as it’s one of the 14, so you can putt with a driver at 48 inches, if you want.

  24. gregh

    Oct 25, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    It is just another case of the USGA coming up with a solution to a problem that didn’t exist

  25. JJVas

    Oct 25, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    A bad back forced this former scratch to use a long putter for the past 23 years. Putting it off my chest by 0.5″ changed nothing. Zero adjustment. If you think Langer is cheating, you’re either misinformed or jealous. He doesn’t need to… there is really no significant difference. The USGA just needs to take a Mulligan here and admit they screwed up. It happens. I know they’re not comfortable watching 10-year olds use belly putters. At least be honest with it and own it. All this rule has done is make me a slower player who has to listen to idiocy now and then from uneducated guys playing golf who don’t understand the rule. Thanks USGA!

  26. BallBuster

    Oct 25, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Why is the argument that it gives an unfair advantage so twisted and skewed? No one ever said it flat out gives EVERYONE an unfair advantage across the board who adopts using it. No. Never. It can (and has been shown statistically) however to give an aid SOME of those who struggle with a more traditional style. Using it does not even guarantee it will help either. It “might”. The unfair comes in competition when someone who putts traditional gets beat on say a final putt (for example) by someone who anchors. If you’re by yourself or among friends who don’t care, it shouldn’t matter what one uses. But some feel in competition it should be a bit more leveled out. Stewart Cink in the early 90’s went from being well past the top 100 in putting down to #2 in just 1 year! He directly 100% credited it to the long anchored putting. It was right in an article in Golf Digest. He is the prime example why those who lost money to him were miffed and said it was unfair. Ditto Azinger and recently Scott had much better putting statistics with the anchor method. At least phrase the context of the argument correctly to decide what’s fair.

  27. the bishop

    Oct 25, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    “We”? You gotta mouse in your pocket? I was against the ban and I’m not, never have been, and never will be a long putter user.

    • Da Izzlest

      Oct 25, 2017 at 2:12 pm

      Right? The article’s title led me to believe the author was a USGA guy involved in the ban.
      GolfWRX is getting very click bait-y.

  28. Al

    Oct 25, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    So Kutcher arms would be in violation of your suggestion? As well I agree with Chopper above. Hands touch the club but nowhere in your rule does it state the hands can’t touch the body. Interesting.

  29. J Zilla

    Oct 25, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    It’s kinda ridiculous the USGA decided to get in the business of regulating swing aesthetics. Regulating the equipment is fine ie length of the putter, size of putter head etc but a player should be allowed to swing a legal club any damn way they want. If it looks bad so what? The USGA should go to the local muni and check out what some real ugly swings look like.

  30. anthony aguilar

    Oct 25, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Anchoring the putter into the chest or anchoring anywhere to a body part is a definite advantage !!!the putter stays stable at the top of grip and it’s easier to repeat itself the USGA is correct on Banning!!

    • Jason

      Oct 25, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Have you ever tried it?

      I have struggled with putting for a good part of the last decade+. I tried a belly (and broom stick) putter.

      Yes it does make the putter more stable, but my experience was I lost feeling on the putts. So my lag putting went to hell. I realized “so what if this makes a 3′ putt easier, if I’m lagging it to 6′ instead of 4′ I’m still loosing strokes with the anchored putter.” I personally didn’t think it was worth it and I switched back to a more conventional putter before the ruling even came out.

      I’ve talked to numerous people who have putted with an anchored style and they agree it costs you on feel. So in reality it’s just a balancing act between feel & stability. But so is every other equipment decision you make, do you get the 460cc driver to be more accurate when the 430cc one will give you an extra 5 yards?

    • J Zilla

      Oct 25, 2017 at 4:47 pm

      If everyone is allowed to do it then it’s not an advantage. Banning it but leaving enough wiggle room in the rules could potentially create room for someone to game the rules and get an advantage, however.

      IMHO the only way to create a fair rule would be to allow all players to swing anyway they want but make rules that limit the equipment like say a max height for clubs.

  31. Mike

    Oct 25, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    To solve it once and for all, Just Ban Broom stick and unconventional putters, all putter grips must conform to standard length to allow hands to be together when making the stroke, so the padded out grip is ok so long as the thumbs touch, if you struggle with a conventional style putter, then do more practice on feel and motion, and try to read the greens better, take a course planner out with you, and stop bloody guessing the breaks, there’s an old adage, if you want to get better at something then practise more on the weaker part of your game, be it Putting, chipping, whatever, you must be dedicated to improving your game, it takes a tidy few hours a week but just do it under supervision if possible.

  32. farmer

    Oct 25, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    If Langer wasn’t winning, this would not be an issue. Why does he win? He is a superior ball striker and gives himself a lot of birdie opportunities. His putting style is certainly a part of the formula, but not the whole equation.

  33. Christopher

    Oct 25, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    The thing is, no one player gained an unfair advantage with anchoring, the technology was available to every player at every level, if you wanted to try it you could. It’s not like Taylor Made or Ping had the rights to the clubs or technique and would only allow their staff players to participate.

    4 out of 6 majors were won by anchoring and I think the governing bodies thought it looked bad for the game, it didn’t.

  34. Bob Jones

    Oct 25, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    I am convinced that the only reason the R&A and USGA banned anchored putting was because they were upset by players winning major championships putting that way. Period.
    It’s the same reason they rushed in the rule banning croquet-style putting because Bobby Jones got all huffy when he saw Sam Snead putting that way and said, “That’s not golf!” — no good reason at all.
    The USGA is trying to grow the game yet they take away from thousands of recreational golfers with yips and bad backs a way they can play the game and enjoy it.
    As for “traditional” strokes, people who say swinging a club freely is the “spirit of the game”, please tell when this “spirit” originated. Was there a meeting in 1783 I don’t know about? I thought the spirit of the game was to play the ball from where it lies. But having to swing a club freely? Where does that come from?
    The anchor ban was the dumbest thing the USGA could have done, and is the reason why I stopped renewing my membership. If you play with me, you can anchor your putter all day, and even your driver if you want to. The USGA can go (ahem) itself.

    • JoeyG

      Oct 25, 2017 at 3:07 pm

      If the anchored long putter is okay with you, why can’t the Snead croquet style putting be okay as well?
      The long putter is a greater abomination to the game of golf than croquet putting.
      What is so wrong with croquet putting anyway?

      • J Zilla

        Oct 25, 2017 at 6:23 pm

        Nothing. The powers that be just don’t like how it looks. Essentially saying, “this is how a golf swing (or putter stroke in this instance) are supposed to look and that’s that!”

      • Bob Jones

        Oct 25, 2017 at 8:26 pm

        Absolutely nothing. Isn’t that clear from my remarks?

  35. Jerry

    Oct 25, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    As Langer says as the video begins, “I do everything the same, really…” I don’t know how any golfer can rehearse the anchor a couple of times, line up and remember to take the club off the chest. He’s also playing for a lot of money … take away any question of anchoring. If you can’t see air between club and chest, assume it’s anchoring.

    • 2putttom

      Oct 25, 2017 at 10:01 pm

      aww yes, kinda like the bed sheets are wrinkled I know your having an affair assumption

  36. Greg V

    Oct 25, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    The USGA should be governing equipment, but not how to use it. So long as a player doesn’t scrape or push the ball, any stroke should be permissible. However, no club should be longer than the driver, which has a maximum length of 48″ at present (I think). The USGA made a huge mistake when they allowed the broomstick back in the beginning.

    By the way, I brought my belly putter out to my Thursday night league this year and asked around if anyone had a problem with my putting it into play. To a man (and woman), no one said they had a problem with it. I made 4 putts over 10′ that night, which is a rarity for me. And still, no one said I should not use it the next Thursday. However, my handicap did drop precipitously.

    • Dave

      Oct 25, 2017 at 9:04 pm

      If you were using an illegal stroke by USGA rules how is the score legal for USGA handicapping purposes?

      • Greg V

        Oct 26, 2017 at 12:05 pm

        Aha! The league commissioner establishes handicaps – at his discretion. Some people gripe about them, some don’t, and we manage to have a lot of fun anyway.

        Sort of like the old British system where the captain of the club established the handicaps after playing with a member. Hard to sandbag in that system.

    • DrRob1963

      Oct 26, 2017 at 4:20 am

      “The USGA made a huge mistake when they allowed the broomstick back in the beginning” is absolutely correct. Broomsticks and anchoring have become part of the game. Trying to ban them now is like trying to get the egg back out of the omelette!
      These things need to be addressed when they start, not after they become common around the world, in tournament, social & club play.

  37. Greg V

    Oct 25, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    I think that the USGA should govern equipment, but should not govern how to use it – beyond the dictum of having to hit the ball instead of scraping or pushing it. The USGA should never have allowed a club to be longer than the length the driver, which I think is 48″ at present.

    By the way, whatever happened to the rule that the clubhead should be plain and simple in shape?

  38. Andrew

    Oct 25, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Yips and nerves are put of the game. Thumbs must be on the the side of the grip toward the ground.

    • Dave

      Oct 25, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      Side of the grip…Which side? Mine are on top of the grip.

  39. John Grossi

    Oct 25, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    The current rule is not enforceable. I say go back to the way the rule was written a few years ago. As the author stated, if it was a superior way to putt then every golfer, especially the pros, would be using it.

  40. Rona

    Oct 25, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    In the sport of badminton the serve must be executed with the racquet head below the position of the wrist holding the racquet.
    If you add this restriction of to both hands for golf putting along with the putter free of the body which includes the arms your problem would be solved.
    Now we have the problem of golfers suffering from the ‘yips’ and sore backs when bending over. For pro golfers this involves their livelihood and a medical exemption could be arranged for the long putter. Medical research indicates that the yips vanish when one of the hands is held at the height of the heart. Belly putting is outright cheating. As for sore backs, that is a structural problem that requires convalescence.

  41. Richard

    Oct 25, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Selective enforcement of the rules has come along to be the root cause of this mess.
    The various revenue streams in the Golf as global spectator entertainment will now drive what eventually emerges.
    My personal opinion: the putter should be swung like all the other clubs in the bag, I think there might be a rule that triggers that opinion in my head.
    If this had been enforced at the very outset, we would not be in the mess we find today.
    Too bad so sad if some guys can’t putt. Maybe we can have trophies for the best ball strikers with every club except putter.

  42. John

    Oct 25, 2017 at 11:58 am

    the next thing the usga will do is, that tour players are only allowed to use 430cc driver heads, have to play blades and a 3 layer ball.
    i mean come on. some of those rules/restrictions are just nonsense.

    • Shallowface

      Oct 25, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      The USGA has no authority over the PGA Tour, or anything or anyone else for that matter other than the tournaments it runs. It is largely ignored at every level of play every single day. Winter rules, more than 14 clubs, leaf rules, ignoring the stroke and distance rule for a lost ball, and now the absurdity of not being allowed to post rounds played as a single for handicap purposes (one which I have ignored any number of times this year and will continue to do so), just to site a very few examples.

      If the PGA Tour decided to allow ANYTHING it wanted rules wise in the interest of enhancing its product (anchored putters, non conforming equipment, naked female caddies, you name it), it is entirely within its rights to do so. It could even do so without declaring it publicly, as they would likely never want to be seen as being in official conflict with the USGA.

      You can write a local rule for anything. I once played a course in Orlando that actually allowed a mulligan off the first tee as one of its local rules. You had to play it if you took it, but it was allowed under a local rule.

      But make no mistake. The USGA has no real authority. Only the authority which it is granted at any level. It’s one of the dirty little not so secrets of our wonderful game.

      • Larry

        Oct 25, 2017 at 2:21 pm

        That is how recreational golf should be played and I suspect is played by the vast majority of the golfers in the world. It should be encouraged. That will grow the game. If it is discouraged, the game will continue to fade away.

  43. I chop too

    Oct 25, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Anchoring is immaterial for the majority of players. You start the argument by saying that anchoring has been around for 50 years and has not been widely adopted, so provides no clear advantage. You then support no anchoring allowed based upon tradition. You are not in a rut, you are in a ditch! Very few elements of equipment have been stopped because of tradition; e.g. Balls, metal woods, steel shafts, graphite shafts, etc. Things need to evolve and anti anchoring was a knee jerk response to anchored putters winning 3 tourneys in 1 year.

  44. Kooch

    Oct 25, 2017 at 11:12 am

    This solves one problem and creates another, namely Matt Kuchar’s putting style where you press the shaft along your forearm and the hand contacts the forearm as well. This is expressly allowed under the current rule, but could be seen as banned under your prospective rule. The whole thing is dumb and should just go back to square one.

  45. Kenny

    Oct 25, 2017 at 11:06 am

    So that change allows the Langer’s of the world to go back to anchoring, but now makes the Kucher style of putting illegal, right? It seems like it just opens a new can of worms. I agree it would be easier to enforce. I think the rules should just go away. I also putt with a conventional putter.

  46. Jason

    Oct 25, 2017 at 11:04 am

    NO PART OF THE CLUB MAY TOUCH ANY PART OF THE BODY OTHER THAN THE HANDS, AND THE HANDS ARE CONSIDERED TO BE PART OF THE CLUB.

    So based on this change the Matt Kuchar putting style would be illegal? Given that the putter touches his forearm and per that statement the forearm is part of the body (not the club).

    Maybe your intent would be to ban Kuchar’s putting style, but if not…

    Do you see where it isn’t just “a simple fix”?

    • Scott

      Oct 25, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      Would adding “other than the hands or arms, with the hands (only) being considered part of the club.” The USGA and R&A tried to fix a problem that did not exist. I use a traditional style of putter, but I could not care less what someone else uses.

  47. gunmetal

    Oct 25, 2017 at 10:59 am

    As a guy who used to use a belly putter, but has since massively improved my putting (thanks Seemore and Garsen) with a traditional style of putting, this article makes all the sense in the world to me – as does your solution. Which is why, sadly, the USGA and R&A will never walk back the anchor ban.

    I feel for Langher and all of the crap he hears behind his back or on Social Media (nobody will say anything to his face).

    • 2putttom

      Oct 25, 2017 at 10:09 pm

      not after @ 272 yards 3 wood that put his ball six feet from the pin to eagle the 18th and win by one stroke.

  48. Chopper

    Oct 25, 2017 at 10:52 am

    “No part of the club may touch any part of the body other than the hands, and the hands are considered to be part of the club.” How exactly would that have left Langer alone? Hands are part of the club and he anchored his hand into his chest. Your simple fix doesn’t work at all. In fact, everyone is now in breach of the rule unless your hands are not touching your wrists, in which case you are good.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 RBC Heritage betting preview: Patrick Cantlay ready to get back inside winner’s circle

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Just a two-hour drive from Augusta National, the PGA TOUR heads to Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Hilton Head Island is a golfer’s paradise and Harbour Town is one of the most beautiful and scenic courses on the PGA TOUR.

Harbour Town Golf Links is a par-71 that measures 7,121 yards and features Bermuda grass greens. A Pete Dye design, the course is heavily tree lined and features small greens and many dog legs, protecting it from “bomb-and-gauge” type golfers.

The field is loaded this week with 69 golfers with no cut. Last year was quite possibly the best field in RBC Heritage history and the event this week is yet another designated event, meaning there is a $20 million prize pool.

Most of the big names on the PGA Tour will be in attendance this week with the exceptions of Hideki Matsuyama and Viktor Hovland. Additionally, Webb Simpson, Shane Lowry, Gary Woodland and Kevin Kisner have been granted sponsors exemptions. 

Past Winners at Harbour Town

  • 2023: Matt Fitzpatrick (-17)
  • 2022: Jordan Spieth (-13)
  • 2021: Stewart Cink (-19)
  • 2020: Webb Simpson (-22)
  • 2019: CT Pan (-12)
  • 2018: Sotoshi Kodaira (-12)
  • 2017: Wesley Bryan (-13)
  • 2016: Branden Grace (-9)
  • 2015: Jim Furyk (-18)

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Key Stats For Harbour Town

Let’s take a look at key metrics for Harbour Town Golf Links to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach is exceedingly important this week. The greens at Harbour Town are about half the size of PGA TOUR average and feature the second-smallest greens on the tour. Typical of a Pete Dye design, golfers will pay the price for missed greens.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.27)
  2. Tom Hoge (+1.27)
  3. Corey Conners (+1.16)
  4. Austin Eckroat (+0.95)
  5. Cameron Young (+0.93)

Good Drive %

The fairways at Harbour Town are tree lined and feature many dog legs. Bombers tend to struggle at the course because it forces layups and doesn’t allow long drivers to overpower it. Accuracy is far more important than power.

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Brice Garnett (88.8%)
  2. Shane Lowry (+87.2%)
  3. Akshay Bhatia (+86.0%)
  4. Si Woo Kim (+85.8%)
  5. Sepp Straka (+85.1%)

Strokes Gained: Total at Pete Dye Designs

Pete Dye specialists tend to play very well at Harbour Town. Si Woo Kim, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and Webb Simpson are all Pete Dye specialists who have had great success here. It is likely we see some more specialists near the top of the leaderboard this week.

SG: TOT Pete Dye per round over past 36 rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2.27)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.24)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+2.11)
  4. Brian Harman (+1.89)
  5. Sungjae Im (+1.58)

4. Strokes Gained: Short Game (Bermuda)

Strokes Gained: Short Game factors in both around the green and putting. With many green-side bunkers and tricky green complexes, both statistics will be important. Past winners — such as Jim Furyk, Wes Bryan and Webb Simpson — highlight how crucial the short game skill set is around Harbour Town.

SG: SG Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+1.11)
  2. Taylor Moore (+1.02)
  3. Wyndham Clark (+0.98)
  4. Mackenzie Hughes (+0.86)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.83)

5. Greens in Regulation %

The recipe for success at Harbour Town Golf Links is hitting fairways and greens. Missing either will prove to be consequential — golfers must be in total control of the ball to win.

Greens in Regulation % over past 24 rounds:

  1. Brice Garnett (+75.0%)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+69.9%)
  3. Corey Conners (+69.0%)
  4. Shane Lowry (+68.3%)
  5. Patrick Rodgers (+67.6%)

6. Course History

Harbour Town is a course where players who have strong past results at the course always tend to pop up. 

Course History over past 24 rounds:

  1. Patrick Cantlay (+2.34)
  2. Cam Davis (+2.05)
  3. J.T. Poston (+1.69)
  4. Justin Rose (+1.68)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (+1.59)

The RBC Heritage Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (24%), Good Drives (20%), SG: SG (14%), SG: Pete Dye (14%), GIR (14%), and Course History (14%)

  1. Shane Lowry
  2. Russell Henley
  3. Scottie Scheffler
  4. Xander Schauffele
  5. Corey Conners 
  6. Wyndham Clark
  7. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
  8. Matt Fitzpatrick
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Ludvig Aberg 

2024 RBC Heritage Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2000 (FanDuel)

With the exception of Scottie Scheffler, the PGA Tour has yet to have any of their star players show peak form during the 2024 season. Last week, Patrick Cantlay, who I believe is a top-5 players on the PGA Tour, took one step closer to regaining the form that’s helped him win eight events on Tour since 2017.

Cantlay limped into the Masters in poor form, but figured it out at Augusta National, finishing in a tie for 20th and ranking 17th for the week in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. The former FedEx Cup champion will now head to one of his favorite golf courses in Harbour Town, where he’s had immaculate results over the years. In his six trips to the course, he’s only finished worse than 7th one time. The other finishes include three third places (2017, 2019, 2023) and one runner-up finish (2022). In his past 36 rounds at Harbour Town, Cantlay ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Total per round at the course by a wide margin (+2.36).

Cantlay is winless since the 2022 BMW Championship, which is far too long for a player of his caliber. With signs pointing to the 32-year-old returning to form, a “signature event” at Harbour Town is just what he needs to get back on the winning track.

Tommy Fleetwood +3000 (FanDuel)

I truly believe Tommy Fleetwood will figure out a way to win on American soil in 2024. It’s certainly been a bugaboo for him throughout his career, but he is simply too talented to go another season without winning a PGA Tour event.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, Fleetwood made a Sunday charge and ended up finishing T3 in the event, which was his best ever finish at The Masters. For the week, the Englishman ranked 8th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 10th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 16th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is a perfect layout for Fleetwood, and he’s had relative success at this Pete Dye design in the past.  In his four trips to the course, he’s finished inside of the top 25 three times, with his best finish, T10, coming in 2022. The course is pretty short and can’t be overpowered, which gives an advantage to more accurate players such as Fleetwood. Tommy ranks 8th in the field in Good Drive % and should be able to plot his way along this golf course.

The win is coming for Tommy lad. I believe there’s a chance this treasure of a golf course may be the perfect one for him to finally break through on Tour.

Cameron Young +3300 (FanDuel)

Cameron Young had a solid Masters Tournament last week, which is exactly what I’m looking for in players who I anticipate playing well this week at the RBC Heritage. He finished in a tie for 9th, but never felt the pressure of contending in the event. For the week, Young ranked 6th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 6th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Despite being one of the longest players off the tee on the PGA Tour, Young has actually played some really good golf on shorter tracks. He finished T3 at Harbour Town in 2023 and ranks 20th in the field in Good Drive% and 16th in Greens in Regulation in his past 24 rounds. He also has strong finishes at other shorter courses that can take driver out of a players hand such as Copperhead and PGA National.

Young is simply one of the best players on the PGA Tour in 2024, and I strongly believe has what it takes to win a PGA Tour event in the very near future.

Corey Conners +5500 (FanDuel)

Corey Conners has had a disappointing year thus far on the PGA Tour, but absolutely loves Harbour Town.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, the Canadian finished T30 but ranked 20th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. In his past 24 rounds, Conners ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 3rd in Greens in Regulation % and 24th in Good Drive %.

In Conners’ last four trips to Harbour Town, his worst finish was T31, last season. He finished T4 in 2021, T12 in 2022 and ranks 8th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course over his past 36 rounds.

Conners hasn’t been contending, but his recent finishes have been encouraging as he has finished in the top-25 in each of his past three starts prior to The Masters, including an impressive T13 at The PLAYERS. His recent improvement in ball striking as well as his suitability for Harbour Town makes Conners a high upside bet this week.

Shane Lowry (+7500) (FanDuel)

When these odds were posted after Lowry was announced in the field, I have to admit I was pretty stunned. Despite not offering much win equity on the PGA Tour over the last handful of years, Shane Lowry is still a top caliber player who has the ability to rise to the top of a signature event.

Lowry struggled to score at The Masters last week, but he actually hit the ball really well. The Irishman ranked 1st for Strokes Gained: Approach on the week and 7th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. As usual, it was the putter that let him down, as he ranked 60th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is most definitely one of Lowry’s favorite courses on the PGA Tour. In his six starts there, he’s finished in the top 10 three times, including third twice. Lowry is sensational at Pete Dye designs and ranks 7th in Strokes Gained: Total in his past 36 rounds on Dye tracks. 

Lowry is perfect for Harbour Town. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 2nd in Good Drive% and 5th in Green in Regulation %. If he figures it out on the greens, Shane could have his first win in America since 2015.

Lucas Glover +12000 (FanDuel)

This is one of my weekly “bet the number” plays as I strongly believe the odds are just too long for a player of Glover’s caliber. The odds have been too long on Glover for a few weeks now, but this is the first event that I can get behind the veteran being able to actually contend at. 

Glover is quietly playing good golf and returning to the form he had after the understandable regression after his two massive victories at the end of 2023. He finished T20 at The Masters, which was his best ever finish at Augusta National. For the week, Lucas ranked 18th for Strokes Gained: Approach and 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Over his past 24 rounds, Glover ranks 9th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 13th in Good Drive %. Harbour Town is a short course that the 44-year-old will be able to keep up with the top players on Tour off the tee. He’s played the course more than 20 times, with mixed results. His best finishes at Harbour Town include a T7 in 2008, but recently has a finish of T21 in 2020.

Glover has proven he can contend with the stars of the Tour on any given week, and this number is flat out disrespectful.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi: The 6 biggest takeaways from the 2024 Masters

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The 2024 Masters offered up plenty of excitement throughout the week with Scottie Scheffler delivering when it mattered to live up to his pre-tournament favorite tag. With the year’s opening major now in the books, here are my six biggest takeaways from the 2024 Masters.

Scheffler In a League of His Own

In the most impressive way possible, Scottie Scheffler won the Masters without having his absolute best stuff. For the week, Scottie ranked 19th in Strokes Gained: Approach, which is a category the number player in the world typically dusts the rest of the field in. After a strong approach day on Thursday, the 27-year-old lost strokes to the field on approach on Friday and Saturday, before gaining on Sunday. The iron performance was more than solid, but it was an all-around game that helped Scheffler get it done around Augusta National.

For a year or more, the narrative around Scheffler has been, “With his ball striking, if he can just putt to field average, he’ll be unbeatable.” At Augusta, his ball striking came back down to earth, but his touch around the greens and ability to manage the golf course demonstrated why he is the best player on the planet right now. For the week, Scheffler ranked 1st in the field in Strokes Gained: Around the Green and 24th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

For the time being, there is a major gap between Scottie Scheffler and the second-best player in the world, whoever that may be.

The Future is Now

Ludvig Aberg went into his first back-nine at the Masters with a legitimate shot to win the tournament. When he teed it up on the treacherous 11th hole, he was one behind Scottie Scheffler, who had just stuck one to a few feet on the 9th. By the time he approached his tee shot, which was perfectly striped down the left side of the fairway, he was two behind. Unfortunately, the 24-year-old got too aggressive with his approach at the 11th and found the water, making double bogey. Ludvig rebounded nicely and finished the event in solo second place.

With the Masters now in the rearview, it’s never been more evident that Ludvig Aberg is no longer an “up-and-comer” — he has arrived. The Swede has been an integral part of a winning European Ryder Cup team and has now contended at Augusta National. With a calm demeanor, a picture-perfect swing, and a build and stature that appears as if it was built in a lab, Ludvig Aberg is already amongst the world’s best. I’d be extremely surprised if he wasn’t in the mix at next month’s PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Nostalgia Wins

I try to avoid as many cliches as possible, but there’s something about the Masters that brings out the sentimentality in me. Tiger Woods strategically making his way around Augusta National without all of the physical tools that made him arguably the most dominant athlete in the history of sports will always be riveting, regardless of what score he shoots. Woods made it interesting until a tough stretch of holes on Saturday, but he ultimately wore down, shooting 16 over for the week in difficult conditions. It’s remarkable that the 15-time major champion was able to put together a few solid rounds of golf despite barely playing any competitive golf in 2024. As long as Woods tees it up at Augusta, we will all continue to be mesmerized by it.

Verne Lundquist’s 40th and final Masters Tournament was also a must-watch aspect of the event. The iconic voice of Lundquist and his calls throughout the years still give me chills each time I hear them. Verne is an icon of the game and will be missed in future renditions of the Masters.

The Masters also brings another element that is unique to the tournament. Former champions turn back the clock to battle with the golf course again which creates some amazing stories. There are a few that stick out this year and were an absolute pleasure to witness. 61-year-old Vijay Singh made the cut for the first time since 2018 and shot a pretty incredible even-par, 72 on Sunday. 58-year-old José María Olazábal made the cut as well, reminding us why fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm sought his valuable advice prior to his Masters victory in 2022.

Regardless of who wins, the Masters always delivers.

Bryson Moves the Needle

Plenty will disagree with me on this point, but outside of Tiger Woods, and potentially Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, no one moves the needle in golf as much as Bryson DeChambeau. The uniqueness in which Bryson approaches the game has always been fascinating, and if he gets near the top of the leaderboard at any major championship, whether it’s to root for him or against him, people are interested.

It began on Monday with a pretty bizarre story of DeChambeau using 3D-printed irons that got just got cleared for use by the USGA when the week began. It once again felt like a storyline that would only be possible with a character as eccentric as Bryson. He then raced off to a first-round lead in tough conditions, reminding the world of what made him such a great golfer to begin with. He made some mistakes on the weekend, but still finished a career best T6 at The Masters.

Bryson is more than just quirky; he is a former U.S. Amateur Champion and U.S. Open who I believe will contend for more majors in the future. I will continue to root for DeChambeau, but I’m perfectly content with the fact that plenty will root against him, and I encourage those people to do so. That’s what makes it fun.

LIV Walks Away Empty-Handed

Last year, there were a multitude of questions about LIV players coming into the year’s first major. They had played very limited tournament golf, and critics of LIV questioned whether the 54-hole events were enough to sharpen the players enough to compete against the best in the world on the biggest stage.

The results were fascinating, with LIV players all over the leaderboard. Brooks Koepka held the 36- and 54-hole lead, with Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed finishing T2 and T4, giving LIV three golfers in the top-4 of the leaderboard.

This season, with even more time removed and with some more massive additions to the roster, the intrigue surrounding LIV players at Augusta was once again palpable. While some players, including Bryson DeChambeau, exceeded expectations, I can’t help but walk away from the Masters feeling underwhelmed by the performance of the LIV players.

Brooks Koepka finished runner-up last season and is a certified major championship killer. The 5-time major champ was never involved and simply didn’t have it at Augusta. Dustin Johnson put together a putrid performance, shooting 13 over for his two rounds, making it fair to wonder if his days of contending at major championships are over as he rapidly approaches his 40th birthday.

Jon Rahm and Joaquin Niemann were both players who were amongst the favorites this week, but Rahm was faced with the daunting duties of defending champion and Niemann proved he was still not quite ready to master the quirks of Augusta National, bleeding strokes both around and on the greens.

To be fair, when all was said and done, LIV had four players in the top twelve at The Masters. Tyrrell Hatton stormed the leaderboard early on Sunday, finishing T9 and earning himself an invite back to Augusta next season. Cam Smith and Patrick Reed put together gritty performances, which isn’t too surprising considering the fact that they both absolutely love Augusta National, but neither ever felt a real threat to win. There’s no doubt the players on LIV are good, and that’s why some encouraging leaderboard positions aren’t enough. They needed to contend.

With no players part of the storyline on Sunday, I view the first major of the year as a disappointment for LIV. The players will head into next month’s PGA Championship at Valhalla with a lot to prove.

Rory’s Struggles Continues

Rory struggling at Augusta National is no surprise at this point. The four-time major champion has now had 10 attempts to complete the career grand slam and has never had a chance to win. His T2 in 2022 was deceiving, the Northern Irishman stormed the leaderboard on Sunday, but was never in contention, and never got within three shots of the winner, Scottie Scheffler.

I didn’t expect Rory to win, but I have to admit that this year felt a bit different. McIlroy played the week prior to the Masters, which he typically doesn’t do, and finished third at the Valero Texas Open. He gained 7.56 strokes on approach and 2.0 strokes off the tee, which told me that his visit with world-renowned swing coach, Butch Harmon, after the Players Championship paid dividends.

McIlroy also approached the media quite differently. He cut his pre-tournament press conference short after only 10 minutes and seemed to be laser-focused on just playing golf.

Despite the different approach to the Masters, the results were the same. McIlroy struggled over the course of the week, finishing T22 (+4) and never sniffed a decent weekend position on the leaderboard. It’s back to the drawing board for McIlroy, and I have doubts that he will ever figure it out at Augusta.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi: The 8 best prop bets for the 2024 Masters

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We’ve finally reached The Masters and excitement is at an all-time high. The world of golf has been fractured for the better part of two years, but for a week at Augusta National, all of the outside noise will disappear. All of the best players in the world will be together seeking to make history.

In addition to betting on The Masters champion. This is one of the few weeks of the year where there are so many more markets to explore, with value to be had in plenty of different categories.

Throughout this article, I’ll discuss all of my favorite props and players for the 2024 Masters.

Placement Bets:

Tony Finau Top 5 +750 (DraftKings):

I badly wanted to include Tony Finau in my outright betting selections, but I simply ran out of room on my card. Additionally, it’s slightly difficult to see him hitting the putts necessary to win the Masters on back nine on Sunday. However, I do strongly believe he will play great golf this week at Augusta National.

In his past 24 rounds, Finau ranks 4th in Strokes Gained: Approach is always amongst the best drivers of the golf ball in the game. Back in 2019, Finau had a great chance to win The Masters. I expect him to be hanging around over the weekend once again in 2024.

Gary Woodland Top 20 +550 (DraftKings), Gary Woodland to make the cut -110 (DraftKings):

Last season, Gary Woodland had his best ever finish at The Masters in his eleven tries. The 39-year-old finished T14 and played incredibly steady across all four rounds.

In Woodland’s most recent start at the Texas Children’s Houston Open, he struck the ball incredibly well. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach (+8.8) and Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (+10.0).

Gary has been working with Butch Harmon and absolutely flushing the ball both in tournaments and during practice.

Woodland appears to be healthy once again and in a great place physically and mentally. If he can build off his impressive performance at Augusta last year, he can place inside the top ten in 2024.

Additionally, the make the cut number on Woodland seems generous considering the number of players who miss the cut will be relatively small this week. Woodland is striking it well enough to make the cut even if he’s hindered by a balky putter once again.

Thorbjorn Olesen Top 20 +400 (FanDuel):

The Thunder Bear, Thorbjorn Olesen, made his Masters debut in 2013 and finished an incredibly impressive T6 for the week. In the two additional starts he’s made at Augusta National since then, the Dane has continued to be incredibly solid, finishing T44 and T21.

This week, Olesen heads into the week playing some good golf. He gained 3.8 strokes on approach and 5.52 strokes around the green at last week’s Valero Texas Open on his way to a strong T14 finish. Back in January, he won the Ras Al Khaimah Championship on the DP World Tour.

Olesen has the skill set to be successful at Augusta and seems primed for a good performance this week.

Top Nationalities:

Sergio Garcia Top Spanish Player +280 (DraftKings):

I believe Sergio Garcia can get into contention this week with the way he’s striking the ball in addition to his good vibes with a refurbished version of the Scotty Cameron that he used at the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah.

I am slightly concerned about the emotional letdown he may face after losing in a playoff at LIV Miami, but I believe a veteran and former Masters champion should be able to regroup and focus on an event far more meaningful.

This is essentially a tournament head-to-head with Jon Rahm at +280. While Rahm deserves to be respected this week, the history of the lack of success of defending champions at The Masters is difficult to ignore.

Joaquin Niemann Top South American Player -230 (FanDuel):

While I hate paying this much juice, I don’t see a world in which Joaquin Niemann isn’t the top South American this week at The Masters. Joaco comes in playing better golf than anyone in the world not named Scottie Scheffler and has a serious chance to win the green jacket.

He only needs to beat two players: Emiliano Grillo and Camilo Villegas.

Tournament Head-to-Heads:

Justin Thomas -110 over Collin Morikawa

JT isn’t having his best season but is playing a lot better than he is getting credit for at the moment. In the past three months, there are only six players on the PGA Tour who have averaged 1.7 Strokes Gained: Tee to Green or better. Justin Thomas (+1.7) is one of the six and is currently tied with Rory McIlroy (+1.7).

Morikawa, on the other hand, has been extremely poor with his irons, which is incredibly uncharacteristic for him. I can’t help but feel like something is completely off with the two-time major champion.

Tony Finau -110 over Wyndham Clark

I explained in the placement section why I’m so high on Tony Finau this week. With how well he’s striking the ball, it seems as if his floor is extremely high. I’m not sure if he can make the putts to win a green jacket but I believe he will be in the mix similarly to 2019 when Tiger Woods emerged from a crowded pack of contenders.

Clark is a debutant, and while some debutants have had success at The Masters, it certainly poses a challenge. I also don’t believe Augusta National suits Clark as well as some of the other major championship venues.

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