Golf Monthly Editor’s Letter May 2013 Issue
When I joined GM in 2004, the issue that included our Masters preview was always viewed as the real start-of-season edition. Published in early spring, it coincided with the time when many golfers were getting back into the swing of playing regularly. The evenings spent watching the Masters on TV could be relied upon to get even the most fair-weather of golfers heading for the garage to dust off the sticks.
On tour, it seemed like little of real significance ever really happened before the players made their way down Magnolia Lane. However, a lot has changed over the past decade, and it now seems that by the time the Masters comes around, an awful lot of water has already passed under the bridge in the world of professional golf.
Arguably never more so than this year. In mid January, golf’s worst-kept secret, Rory McIlroy’s switch to Nike, was officially revealed amidst much razzmatazz in Abu Dhabi, and ever since then he seems to have hogged the headlines.
Missing the cut by three shots in Abu Dhabi had many questioning both the decision to change equipment and his focus. A month later, he made a meek first round exit in the WGC-Accenture Matchplay Championship, and the following week he walked off the course during the second round of the Honda Classic – a tournament he was defending.
The criticism of Rory’s actions at the Honda was quick, severe and justified. Thankfully, he made a full apology and I believe will have learned from the incident. Who knows, his awful start to the year might have refocused him, and by the time you read this Rory may have won a tournament and got in gear for Augusta.
As if the Rory-related news wasn’t enough to keep us golf scribes closely acquainted with our keyboards, PGA Tour boss, Tim Finchem, got us back to work when he issued a statement to say the tour opposed the governing bodies’ proposed ban on the anchored putting stroke.
Finchem said he did not feel a ban “was in the best interests of golf or the PGA Tour”. There had been rumblings of discontent from the other side of the Atlantic, where the anchored stroke is more widely used, but I for one was genuinely surprised to see the PGA Tour drawing up the battle lines. It was a relief to see the European Tour issue a statement two weeks later supporting the proposed rule change.
Commissioner Finchem was, of course, only doing his job and acting on behalf of the players who he represents, a significant number of whom obviously felt their ability to compete would be fundamentally compromised if the ban becomes law in 2016. I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of sympathy for them.
Not only would they have nearly three years to get used to a conforming stroke, but it seems very much like their stance is founded on short-term self-interest rather than the long-term integrity of the game, which is what I believe The R&A and USGA had as the overriding aim when they announced the proposed rule change.
Only time will tell how this one will play out, but I sincerely hope it will not be in a court with the authority of golf’s rule makers being challenged, and a possible bifurcation of the Rules on the cards. In my view, that would be a terrible thing for the game.
What is for sure is that all of this early-season activity certainly adds extra spice to the Masters. How will Rory, and indeed Tiger perform? Will the Masters be won for the first time by a golfer using an anchored putting stroke? Add to that the now annual wave of optimism (more justified than ever this year) that a home-grown player might win the Green Jacket, and you have the ingredients for a fascinating Masters.
It’s going to be all the more exciting because our editor at large Bill Elliott will be tweeting from Augusta for GM. Regular readers of his column, and mine, will know I’ve been trying to encourage him to share 140 characters of insight for a while now. To date, he’s managed to sidestep my advances. No longer. How does he feel about it? Well, to be honest, he doesn’t know yet. We’re playing golf together tomorrow, so I’ll tell him then.