Golf rules bifurcation? We've already got it underfoot

Lee Janzen was disqualified from U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying because he wore metal spikes.

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Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.

• Lee Janzen was disqualified after an opening 75 in 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifying because he wore steel spikes at a soft-spikes facility after not reading the rules sheet.

Janzen happened to play at a course where steel spikes are prohibited. Some other qualifying courses allowed them.

So, correct me if I’m wrong, but what we have here is an interesting case of spikes bifurcation at, of all things, a U.S. Golf Association competition. Some players can wear them, some can’t.

Two sets of rules.

And here I thought the czars of golf despised such a thing when imposing an upcoming ban on anchored putting.

So here’s the deal moving forward: Putter anchoring: No (starting in 2016). Feet anchoring: Sometimes.

Your correspondent is contemplating nominating that as the year’s gold standard of double standards.

• Can’t wait for U.S. Open at Merion. Let’s just hope for two things: That the setup doesn’t cross the unplayable, tricked-up line (and it hasn’t so far under Mike Davis) because the USGA tries too hard to protect par, and that conditions are firm so there is no dart-throwing contest on soft turf.

Let’s face it, other majors don’t freak out when someone double digits under par hoists a trophy. So we shouldn’t get bent out of shape if conditions lead to a winner with a 12-under-par total.

• Should players be penalized for withdrawing after a poor first round of 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualilfying?

There are arguments both ways, but I think not. Shooting a high score is penalty enough. Play is sped up after they leave. Some guys would be better served to get to the next Tour stop, sometimes under tough logistics.

That said, you never know when a career round – or a career – might break out. And everybody did sign up for 36 holes, which means taking the good with the bad.

• Yes, the four U.S. Opens at Merion have been won by a wonderful cast of players – Hall of Famers Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino, plus multiple major champions Olin Dutra and David Graham.

But the site of next month’s major takes it to the highest level. Muirfield almost always has crowned a Hall of Famer. Choppers don’t win the Open Championship at Muirfield; men with bronzed busts in St. Augustine, Fla., do.

The eight Opens at Muirfield since World War II have been won by men now in the World Golf Hall of Fame: Henry Cotton, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo (twice) and Ernie Els.

And before Alfred Perry’s victory there in 1935, the first winners at Muirfield were heavyweights: Walter Hagen, Ted Ray, James Braid (twice), Harry Vardon and Harold Hilton. All but Ray is in the Hall, and he probably should be.

Given all that, give me Tiger Woods on a betting slip this year.

• Had someone suggested in late June 2008 that Tiger Woods wouldn’t win a major championship over the next five years, he would have been taken away by doctors in white coats and treated for irrational thought.

Next week’s U.S. Open will be the 75th consecutive major I’ve covered and 89th overall. I’ve seen many amazing things over those years. Woods not winning a major in the last five years – in his supposed peak time, after dominating his way to 14 – ranks high on the list.

• So, let’s reintroduce an old question: Will Woods break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major victories?

The answer keeps changing.

2008: Yes.

2011: No.

2013: Maybe, perhaps trending toward probably.

With seven Tour victories in the last 14 or so months, Woods again is equipped to set the record. His game is strong enough to rattle off a bunch in a short amount of time.

The flip side is this: He needs five majors, or the career of Seve Ballesteros, to pass Nicklaus. It won’t be easy.

• As a PGA Tour rookie in 2011, Brendan Steele won the Valero Texas Open, played in the PGA Championship’s final Sunday twosome and finished 38th in earnings.

The 2012-13 seasons haven’t been as good to him. Last year he ranked 130th in FedEx Cup points and felt he put too much pressure on himself. This year he’s 116th in earnings after missing four consecutive cuts. He’s an excellent ballstriker, but he ranks 141st in putting.

Now 30, Steele qualified on Monday for his first U.S. Open after finding swing and putting keys following a missed cut at the Memorial. Before that, though, he was having some dark thoughts.

“The last few rounds I’ve played on the PGA Tour have even been career-questioning rounds,” Steele said. “I’ve been asking myself: What am I doing out here? Should I be out here?”

Steele has anchored a belly putter to his body since 2006. With an anchor ban coming in 2016, Steele tried the Matt Kuchar-style, arm-lock method during three of his recent missed cuts before switching back.

A member of the Tour’s Player Advisory Council, Steele calls the anchor ban a “polarizing topic” among pros and said he’s “not sure” whether the Tour's Policy Board will decide to adhere to the ban.

“Guys are fired up both ways,” said Steele, who attended a PAC meeting on the topic last week at Muirfield Village. “Is it fair for guys who have used it a long time to give it up? Is it right to go tell Tim Clark to change after 17 years?”

As for whether players who anchor would have a good legal challenge, Steele said, “I’m sure things have been won over stupider stuff.”

• When it comes to shopping, you might say, men take on female tendencies in a golf pro shop. They run the risk of walking out with three bags of goods. Somewhere in one of the bags, usually, is a logoed cap.

So, now a word about caps.

The logoed cap always looks good when tried on in the shop, particularly when at a highly ranked course. It doesn’t look as good on your head once you get it home. And after a few months it may not look good at all to you, and suddenly you’re thinking about giving it to a buddy or never taking it out of the closet.

So don’t fight it. Don’t feel alone. Accept it. It’s one of golf’s constants.

• Participants in a Muirfield Village outing the day after the Memorial Tournament were handed a “club rules” card at the guard gate upon arrival. Among the rules:

No caps in the clubhouse. Caps should be worn bill forward. Denim is prohibited. Cash tipping is not permitted. Cellphones set on "silent" can be used only in clubhouse phone booths or in the car.

Other than the tipping part, apparently it’s a tough place for a 25-year-old cool guy.

• From the stranger-than-fiction file: Tom Kite is still looking for his first victory in his native Texas. Kite went 0-103 during his PGA Tour career in Texas and is 0-30 on the Champions Tour in his home state.

Somebody get the man a case of longnecks to ease that pain.

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