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Tiger Woods, European Dominance and Other Key Issues for Golf in 2012

Fred Altvater@@tolohgolfrContributor IIDecember 21, 2011

Tiger Woods won the Chevron in December
Tiger Woods won the Chevron in DecemberRobert Meggers/Getty Images

Belly & Long Putter

The USGA and the R&A are both researching the Belly Putter issue. Should it be legal to anchor the putter handle against a player’s body? 

In the past, Sam Snead was banned from standing directly behind the ball and putting much like a croquet strike. In the 1980s, the USGA banned the use of square grooves and set off a firestorm of media coverage and lawsuits from club manufacturers. I’m not too sure they want to do that all again.

How can the ruling bodies of golf tackle this issue and appease everyone from the professional to the average golfer, as well as, the golf industry?

Long putters have been in use on tour and around golf for many years. I first witnessed Orville Moody putting with the long putter on the PGA Tour back in the 1980s. It became a small rage around my golf club for a short time but few players adopted it permanently.

If golf’s governing bodies now decide to limit the length of putters or the process of anchoring the putter against the body, how will it affect current players that use the belly or long putter?

Young players today are learning to putt with the belly method. Successful players such as Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley have used the belly putter for some time. 

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Will the USGA & R&A make legislation banning longer putters?

Tiger Woods

Jack Nicklaus addressed the Thunderbirds in Phoenix, Arizona
Jack Nicklaus addressed the Thunderbirds in Phoenix, Arizona

Tiger Woods had a strong finish to the 2011 season.  He contended for a win in the Australian Open, played well in the Presidents Cup and got his first win in over two years at Chevron. True, it was a limited field event, but a win is a win. He jumped from 58th in the world rankings all the way to 24th.

Will Tiger’s new swing hold up under the pressure of major competition? Has he put his personal problems behind him and struck a balance in his professional and personal life? Will his legs hold up to the demands of a professional golfer's schedule? Will Woods get back to the task at hand and surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles? Is there another Masters Green Jacket in Tiger’s immediate future?

LPGA

The LPGA has too many issues to cover in this article. The good news is that the 2012 LPGA schedule will be the first since 2009 that will feature more tournaments than was played in the previous year.

Teenage sensation Alexis Thompson, who is already the youngest winner ever on the LPGA and the Ladies European Tours, could bring an American Face to women’s golf and add some competition to Yani Tseng.

The LPGA has become a truly global sports league. With the influx of Asian-born players, the women’s game has become a huge draw in Korea, Taiwan, Japan and China. Can the LPGA continue to capitalize on its globalization policy and also increase their events and presence in America?

Teenager Alexis Thompson already has two wins
Teenager Alexis Thompson already has two winsDavid Cannon/Getty Images

Golf Course Closings

Earlier in December, Jack Nicklaus addressed the Thunderbirds in Phoenix, Ariz. The full report of his speech can be seen here

Nicklaus feels that golf is failing the average golfer. The game that we watch professionals play is too far of a reach for “Joe Hacker.” Golf courses are too long, the game is too expensive, it takes too long to play and it is not attractive to kids and women as a leisure activity.

He feels that the golf world needs to think outside the box to develop the growth of the game that is necessary to help all of the golf industry prosper.

Dominance of International Golfers

Six of the top 10 and 12 of the top 20 ranked players in the world are from outside the United States. Asia, Australia and European Golf Tour events pay appearance fees. This induces the top players to compete on their tours and not play as many events on the PGA Tour. It ensures that these other tour events will have a strong field, which in turn promotes higher Official World Golf Ranking points for its players.

That explains the high rankings for non-PGA Tour players on the OWGR, but the fact is, international players had won the previous seven major championships before upstart Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship. Since 2007, American-born players have won only three of 13 majors.

Rory McIlroy is currently #3 in the OWGR
Rory McIlroy is currently #3 in the OWGRRoss Kinnaird/Getty Images

The European Team has won six of the last eight Ryder Cup competitions. The 2004 and 2006 matches were 18 ½ - 9 ½ routs won by the Euros. 

Can such American youngsters as Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland win consistently on the world stage? Is International dominance a good thing for the world golf economy?

These are just a few of the things to follow in 2012 and beyond. With the emergence of younger players, both men and women, in world golf and the resurgence of Tiger Woods, golf will be exciting to watch.  

View more golf tips and articles at:  www.toledoohiogolflessons.com

Follow Fred on Twitter:  @tolohgolfr

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