Monthly Archives: April 2017

Continued Use of Long Putter Raises Concerns on the Senior Tour

The Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee was watching the second round of the United States Senior Open in June when television cameras zoomed in on Bernhard Langer as he attempted a 7-foot eagle putt on the 14th hole.

To Chamblee, it looked as if the butt end of Langer’s long putter was embedded in his shirt during the stroke and as if his left forearm touched his chest, a potential violation of Rule 14-1b. The rule forbids intentionally bracing the club against the body or creating so-called anchor points by pressing the grip hand or forearm against the body as a means of stabilizing the stroke.

“It’s just wrong,” Chamblee, a former player on the PGA Tour, said in a recent interview. “Whether he believed he was or not, the camera clearly showed he was.”

Several times this summer, Chamblee has written and spoken critically about that putt and what he sees as shortcomings of the anchoring rule. And he is not alone. The instructor Hank Haney, who coached Tiger Woods, has questioned on Twitter whether the rule is being properly enforced.

Two rules officials — Jeff Hall of the United States Golf Association and Brian Claar of the PGA Tour Champions — spoke about the issue with Langer, 59, who was cleared of any wrongdoing before his third round at the Senior Open. He ended up finishing in a tie for 18th place. But the controversy has hardly been confined to that putt or to Langer.

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Rule 14-1b, the ban on anchoring a putter, went into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, more than two years after players were told to prepare for the change. Since then, the broomstick putters have virtually disappeared from the regular PGA Tour, but they remain in use among a handful of players on the senior circuit, the PGA Tour Champions.

One of them is Scott McCarron, who ranks second behind Langer on this year’s money list and in the standings for the Charles Schwab Cup, the senior tour’s yearlong points race. His success and his putting technique, like Langer’s, have been called into question.

“It’s hurting our product and the credibility of the PGA Tour Champions,” said Tom Pernice Jr., a five-time winner on the tour.

Langer, who has earned more than $2 million in 15 starts and won four times, including three majors, attributes the doubts to envy.

“I believe in honesty and integrity,” Langer said in a statement July 7, “and I could not live with myself if I broke a rule and did not incur the penalty.”

The ban on anchoring has been costly for some prominent players who switched to shorter putters as a result. Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Carl Pettersson and Tim Clark had all won on the PGA Tour with some form of an anchored putter, and their putting statistics took nose dives when the ban went into effect.

In that group, only Scott has hoisted a trophy since, and each player fell in the world rankings as he tried to adjust his stroke.

Langer and McCarron, on the other hand, have maintained their putting prowess. As of last week, Langer ranked second in putting average on the senior circuit this year (1.702 putts per green, an improvement from 1.716 in 2015, before the anchoring ban), while McCarron ranked fifth (1.726 putts per green this season, down from 1.762 in 2015).

“It was curious to me,” Chamblee said. He added that at least 10 PGA Tour Champions players had contacted him by phone or text message to express concern.

“There is no shortage of players who are aghast,” Chamblee said. “I realized there was a great deal of animosity and suspicion, and it needed to be talked about.”

Chamblee is quick to point out that he is troubled primarily by the way the rule is enforced and that he does not believe Langer or McCarron is violating the rule as written. The inclusion of the word “intentionally” in the rule, Chamblee said, provides an unacceptable loophole.

“Intent is the get-out-of-jail-free card for both the player and those who are meant to police the player,” Chamblee wrote in a column for the Golf Channel’s website.

Langer and McCarron have ardent defenders, as well. Rocco Mediate, 54, who used a long putter for about 15 years until 2009, said they deserved credit for figuring out how to use the broomstick putters without anchoring them — a challenge that Mediate found confounding.

Silicon Valley Flocks to Foiling, Racing Above the Bay’s Waves

SAN FRANCISCO — What happens in the San Francisco Bay every Thursday night does not look real or even possible, and it certainly does not look safe. Dozens of people skim across the waters at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, kites far ahead and their boards floating two feet above the chop of the waves. They move so smoothly and quietly that some riders are on their cellphones.

They call it hydrofoiling — or, if you’re hip to it, foiling.

And every week, the foilers of San Francisco race.

“It’s like flying,” said Ariel Poler, a 50-year-old start-up investor, standing by the winged doors of his Tesla and pulling on body armor and a helmet. “The board doesn’t touch the water. It’s like an airplane wing.

“It’s like a powder day,” he added, referring to snow skiing.

He walked into the water, strapped his feet onto the small, oddly shaped board and latched his kite onto his harness. Then he leaned back in the water like an overturned turtle. As the kite caught wind, Poler popped up and blasted toward Alcatraz Island.

The Silicon Valley elite have long loved extreme water sports (there is an entire tech and kitesurfing conference circuit). Now they have upgraded them. And suddenly, the tech world is participating in a sport most of the country has never seen.

In workshops around San Francisco and Hawaii, craftsmen and technologists are hooking hydrofoils — a lifting surface attached to the bottom of a watercraft — onto seemingly everything. Versions include a jetfoiler, which looks like a surfboard with a rudder and a tiny hidden motor; the SUP foil, a stand-up paddle board with a foil; and the kitefoil, which is like a kiteboard but has a foil.

The Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison made foils famous when he allowed them on the America’s Cup boats in 2013, leading to a panic over cost and safety. Since then, private investors around Silicon Valley have been bankrolling the technology.

“Now we all foil,” Poler said.

Just as it did for the America’s Cup, foiling adds both speed and danger.

Anquan Boldin Says Social Strife Prompted His N.F.L. Exit

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y — A deadly, racially charged conflict in Charlottesville, Va., prompted Anquan Boldin to reassess his priorities and led to his decision to leave the Buffalo Bills and retire after 14 N.F.L. seasons.

In an interview Monday on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Boldin said he was “uncomfortable” with how divided the nation was and wanted to dedicate his entire focus to humanitarian and criminal justice causes.

“I always felt like football would be my passion, football would be the path to a lot of things,” Boldin said. “But just seeing the things that transpired over the last week or so, I think for me, there’s something bigger than football at this point.”

He then clarified that he was referring specifically to what happened in Charlottesville on Aug. 13, when a counterprotester was killed during a rally involving neo-Nazis and other right-wing groups.

“Do I think I can solve all the problems that we have in this country?” said Boldin, a 36-year-old receiver. “Of course not. But I think I have a duty to stand up and make my voice heard and be a voice for those who don’t have a voice.”

Yankee Can Facing Breather

BOSTON — When the Yankees polished off a four-game sweep of the Mets last Thursday night, they could not contain their glee on Twitter. Above a screen grab of the final score of each game, the Yankees posted a message: Bend the knee. It was punctuated with a crown emoji.

Never mind that the Mets had been brought to their knees long ago in a season that had disintegrated from World Series hopes in March to a roster sell-off in August.

There was a time when the Yankees used to reserve their chest thumping for October, when they would let their victories speak for themselves. But playoff success has been harder to come by in the Bronx in recent years, and so maybe it made sense to flex their muscles when they had the chance.

The good news for the Yankees, after series losses to the Boston Red Sox on consecutive weekends left them further behind their traditional American League rival in the standings than they were two weeks ago — by four and a half games, after Boston lost in Cleveland on Monday — is that they now have a chance to regroup. With Boston behind them for now, they get off their own knee and have the opportunity to go back to beating up on another team that has run up the white flag this season, the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers (54-69), like the Mets, seem to be looking beyond their lost season. They have traded away outfielder J. D. Martinez, reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila for prospects, and they were even talking with the Houston Astros this month about a deal for their recently rejuvenated ace, Justin Verlander.

A scheduled day off Monday and the Tigers might be just the breather the Yankees need before diving into what could be a grueling final stretch of the season as they try to find a way into the playoffs, either by chasing down the Red Sox or by holding off a crowded field for one of the league’s two wild-card berths. In that race, the Yankees held a two-and-a-half-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels and the Minnesota Twins before Monday.

The Yankees, who still have to squeeze in a makeup game with Kansas City, will have only two more scheduled days off the rest of the season. They are set to play 16 days in a row beginning Tuesday. Then, after a day off Sept. 7, they are scheduled to play 13 consecutive days.