AS EXPECTED, putting was the big topic as the World Challenge got under way in California.
Twenty-four hours after golf’s governing bodies proposed a new rule that will ban the anchored stroke used for long putters, Keegan Bradley talked about someone on Twitter telling the PGA champion to send in his resume to Burger King in 2016, when the rule goes into effect. Bradley got so fed up with the teasing over his belly putter this week that he grabbed Tiger Woods’ putter and made three out of four from ten feet.
The rule doesn’t affect Nick Watney, though he couldn’t say enough about his putting. He made five birdies on his last ten holes for a five-under 67 that gave him a two-shot lead.
Woods’ putting saved his round, even though most of them were for par. That included a 12-foot putt on the 15th and an eight-footer to avoid bogey on the par-5 16th. It added up to a 70, which left him very much in the hunt at an 18-man event where he is more than just a tournament host. Without a title sponsor, Woods is underwriting most of the cost. And yes, even Steve Stricker made news with his putter. He tried a new one. “Mid-life crisis,” he said.
The World Challenge field is stronger than ever, with 13 players from the Ryder Cup and it showed in the scores. On a cool, overcast day in the Conejo Valley, only eight shots separated the top (Watney) from Brandt Snedeker, bringing up the rear with a 75. Snedeker drilled a fairway metal into eight feet and made eagle on the 11th hole, only for his round to fall apart. He hit two provisional tee shots on the par-3 12th, didn’t have to use them but still made bogey, and then he snap-hooked his next tee shot for a double bogey.
Bradley and a pair of past champions at this tournament – Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell – were two shots off the lead at 69. Woods was in the group at 70 that included Bo Van Pelt.