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PGA Tour players accept anchor-putter rule, ask that hackers be exempted

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The PGA Tour said Monday it would follow a new rule that bans the anchored putting stroke used by four of the last six major champions, asking instead Monday for a temporary reprieve for those who play the game for fun.

The announcement Monday after a PGA Tour board meeting is the final piece of confirmation from a major golf organization for Rule 14-1b, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2016 when the next Rules of Golf is published. The rule makes it illegal for players to attach the end of the club to their body while making a stroke.

Adam Scott used a long putter held against his chest when he won the Masters. Ernie Els (British Open) and Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) used belly putters last year. Keegan Bradley in the 2011 PGA Championship was the first major champion with a belly putter.

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and U.S. Golf Association proposed the new rule Nov. 28 and allowed for a three-month comment period. It formally adopted the rule May 21.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in February the tour was opposed to the new rule because there were no data to suggest an advantage and no "overriding reason to go down that road." The tour's opinion was shaped by a players-only meeting earlier that month.

"In making its decision, the policy board recognized that there are still varying opinions among our membership, but ultimately concluded that while it is an important issue, a ban on anchored strokes would not fundamentally affect a strong presentation of our competitions or the overall success of the PGA Tour," Finchem said in a statement.

"The board also was of the opinion that having a single set of rules ... applicable to all professional competitions worldwide was desirable and would avoid confusion."

Oly hockey deal almost done

NEW YORK -- NHL players are just a slap shot away from returning to the Olympics next year.

While a deal hasn't been reached between the NHL, the union and the International Ice Hockey Federation to send the league's players to Sochi, a long meeting Monday pushed the sides much closer to an agreement.

"Things are moving along," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

Bettman, union leader Donald Fehr and IIHF President Rene Fasel met for more than five hours Monday at league headquarters to work on a deal that would allow NHL players to compete at the 2014 games in Russia. This would be the fifth Olympics for the NHL.

Not everything has been agreed to and the various sides need to meet internally to sign off on any pact. Still, Bettman called Monday's session a "constructive meeting," adding there are still "some I's to dot and T's to cross."

"I think it's fair to say that we're not quite ready to announce it's done," Bettman said.

Fasel headed to the airport following the meeting and planned to get together with various international groups starting today. Fehr will brief players during multi-day union executive board meetings next week.

(Somewhere) Coyotes ink Smith

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes have locked up their top off-season priority, signing goalie Mike Smith to a six-year deal that averages around $5.7 million per season.

Smith and the Coyotes agreed to the deal over the weekend and received approval of the contract from the NHL on Monday.

The 31-year-old Smith had mostly been a backup before leading the Coyotes to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 2011-12, his first season as Phoenix's No. 1 goalie. Smith was about to become a free agent and had been waiting for clarity on the Coyotes' ownership situation before signing.

The City of Glendale is set to vote on a lease agreement with Renaissance Sports & Entertainment today, the last major hurdle in the group's attempt to buy the franchise from the NHL.

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2013 C5

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