Thousand Oaks, Calif. • Sure enough, putting was all the rage Thursday in the World Challenge.
One day 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 résumé 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 10 feet.
The rule doesn't affect Nick Watney, though he couldn't say enough about his putting. He made five birdies on his last 10 holes including his first birdie ever on the 14th hole at Sherwood for a 5-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 8-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 Thursday with his putter. He tried a new one.
"Midlife crisis," he said.
The World Challenge is not a hit-and-giggle at the end of the year, even with a short field, no cut and lots of holiday cash for all involved. The 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.
Bradley and a pair of past champions at this tournament Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell were two shots out of the lead at 69. Woods was in the group at 70 that included Bo Van Pelt, whom Woods beat this year at Congressional, and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.
But the buzz remained over the belly.
Bradley was the first player to win a major using the belly putter at the 2011 PGA Championship, and then Simpson and Ernie Els followed this year. Bradley is not happy about the rule, though he has been respectful toward the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient in their right to set the rules.
But this is a guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder, and this chip could be a big one.
Sun City, South Africa • Bill Haas bogeyed two of the last three holes Thursday in the Nedbank Golf Challenge to slip back into a share of the first-round lead with Nicolas Colsaerts.
Making his first appearance in the $5 million tournament, Haas salvaged boyey with a 10-foot putt on the 18th after fighting his way out of the stubborn Kikuyu grass rough.