We are approaching the midway point in the PGA Tour season and there have been many headlines to follow. The most exciting part is that the best parts of the season are still to come including all 4 majors, The Players, and the Ryder Cup this fall. I decided to take a look at some of the changes made recently and from early this season and evaluate them so far.
In 2013, the USGA and R&A, the two major governing bodies in golf, decided to outlaw the use of an anchored/long putter and deemed this to illegal and an unfair interpretation of golfs rules. Beginning on January 1, 2016, the ban took place and outlawed the anchor putting method. This time period between gave many guys the opportunity to slowly switch over to the conventional method. Some guys switched right away and some waited until this year. One player that started to tinker with it last year was Adam Scott. This inconsistency and uncertainty as to which method to use caused him to struggle in 2015. He ranked outside the top 150 in strokes-gained putting. This lost him about a stroke and a half every tournament to the field. Over the start of this year though he has improved using the short, conventional putter. This improvement and consistency in his putting has catapulted him to 42nd in strokes-gained putting this season and now he sits at the top of the FedEx Cup standings with two wins and multiple top 10’s.
Another change that has taken place very recently was with the #3 golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy. This past week, before the WGC Cadillac Championship, Rory debuted a new putting grip. He switched from the conventional right handed grip to the left hand low grip. Rory stated that he was tinkering with this grip and decided to put it into play this past week after being a sort of slump to start the year. The change paid off as he held the lead entering the final round and finished tied for 3rd. He gained roughly two and a half strokes on the field on the greens. Overall, it is way too early to evaluate this change but early indications seem to point towards it being a good move by McIlroy as the schedule starts to heat up.
Grade= Too soon to tell
One last change that occurred this offseason is a switch in sponsors by one of the worlds best and most consistent players. In December, it was announced that start up club company, PXG, signed Zach Johnson to a sponsorship. This move was very shocking to some, upsetting to others (Zach Johnson is my favorite golf so put me in this category) and some just confused. ZJ was coming off a very successful year including winning his second major title, The Open Championship, at St Andrews. He said that his new club company gave him the best chance to achieve success both now and in the future. This switch has not appeared to pay off to date. Through 6 events with his new clubs, he has just one top 10. He has fallen 7 spots in the Official World Golf Rankings and looks to be struggling to gain the consistency he is known for. I believe this will change and he will regain his form. I just hope this happens sooner rather than later.
These storylines very well might shift as the season goes on and as I mentioned before, the majority of the big events are still to come. We will look for more major storylines and changes to unfold over the course of the year.