Americans in command early at Ryder Cup

By Associated PressSeptember 19, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' Phil Mickelson pointed his putter toward the cup, took a step and punched his fist to celebrate a clutch birdie. Boo Weekley revved up the crowd after holing a 50-foot putt from just off the green. Anthony Kim set a record for high-fives.
 
Yes, those were the Americans having all the fun Friday at Valhalla.
 
At the Ryder Cup, no less.
 
My cheeks are sore from smiling all day long, Justin Leonard said. This was a lot different than my other Ryder Cup experiences.
 
Anthony Kim
Anthony Kim went 1-0-1 with Phil Mickelson Friday. (Getty Images)
In a stunning turnaround, the Americans rallied from a back-nine deficit four times to take a 5 1/2 -2 1/2 lead, their largest margin after the opening day since continental Europe first was included in the Ryder Cup in 1979.
 
Mickelson and Kim twice came back from a 3-hole deficits and picked up 1 1/2 points, as many as Lefty earned in the last two Ryder Cups combined. Leonard had never won a match in any Ryder Cup until two blowout victories with Hunter Mahan, one of six U.S. rookies who played like recent European dominance really was ancient history.
 
Were in a good place, U.S. captain Paul Azinger said. Who would have thought?
 
The Americans hadnt led after any session since last winning the Ryder Cup in the Miracle at Brookline in 1999. But with six rookies and no Tiger Woods, they lost only one of eight matches and left European captain Nick Faldo wringing his hands.
 
Europe has won the last three Ryder Cups ' and five of the last six ' but now finds itself desperate to catch up.
 
Weve had a tough time, Faldo said. We lost a few points, but we havent lost any spirit.
 
One of the few bright spots for Europe was Lee Westwood, who tied Arnold Palmer by running his unbeaten streak in the Ryder Cup to 12 matches. Westwood and Soren Hansen birdied the last three holes in the final fourballs match of the afternoon, the last one enough to earn a halve against Weekley and big-hitting J.B. Holmes.
 
Its a novelty, isnt it? Westwood said. Its not the position we wanted to be in, thats for sure.
 
Westwood landed in an even worse spot after the long day. In a surprising move, Faldo decided to bench Westwood and Sergio Garcia for the Saturday morning foursomes. Neither has ever missed a Ryder Cup match ' 27 straight for Westwood, 22 straight for Garcia. Combined, they have a 27-5-8 record in team play.
 
Rarely has a European captain shook up his lineup so drastically. But then, rarely is Europe behind.
 
Azinger sent out the same players for Saturday morning foursomes that he used on the opening day, which produced a 3-1 lead. It was the first time the United States won the first session of the Ryder Cup since 1991.
 
Even so, Captain America was cautious.
 
Weve got a long, long way to go, he said. And we know how good they are.
 
Even so, it was an amazing start for the Americans.
 
In the opening match, Mickelson and Kim trailed by three holes with six to play until winning three straight holes and earning a halve against Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson. Down by three after four holes in the afternoon, Kim gave them their first lead of the day with a 7-foot birdie on the 14th, and Mickelson dropped in a 20-foot birdie on the 17th that led to a 2-up victory.
 
We played with a lot of heart and a lot of emotion today to pull the halve and win out, Mickelson said. We have a lot of work to do. This is a fun day. I love playing with this guy. Anthony has got this youthfulness to him, and he has a lot of game.
 
It was a big day for most of the U.S. rookies, who went 3-2-3.
 
Leonard teamed with one of those rookies, Hunter Mahan, and they won both matches without reaching the 17th hole. The afternoon victory came at the expense of Sergio Garcia, who finally looked ordinary in the Ryder Cup.
 
It was the first time Garcia failed to win a match in a single day.
 
Garcia had been undefeated in foursomes (8-0) but had to settle for a halve with Westwood in the morning. Kenny Perry, the lone disappointment for Kentucky, missed a 5-foot par putt that would have won the match on the 17th, then drove into the water on the 18th hole to allow Europe to catch them.
 
Leonard and Mahan then handed Garcia only his second loss in team matches by going 9 under through 15 holes, with Leonard finishing it off with a chip-in for birdie that had him pumping his fists.
 
It was a familiar scene across Valhalla.
 
Weekley, with a pinch of snuff jutting out of his lip and his arms flapping to exhort a spirited crowd, knocked in a 50-foot birdie from just off the green at No. 12 to give his team a lead it never relinquished until the last hole.
 
And while Weekley and Holmes didnt win the match, they illustrated the Americans resolve.
 
Europe had the lead in all four morning matches in the first hour and only came away with one point. It was the first time since 1991 that the United States won the opening session of the Ryder Cup.
 
In the afternoon, Europe had the lead in three matches going to the back nine, and came away with only 1 1/2 points.
 
The Americans had watched 11 consecutive matches go to the final hole without winning until Chad Campbell, the final captains pick, hit a 5-iron to 20 feet on the par-5 18th as he and Stewart Cink went 1-up over Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.
 
Poulter and Rose won the only match for Europe, a 4-and-2 victory over Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis.
 
But that wasnt enough to quiet the crowd.
 
There was a lot of noise all day, from the first tee on, Cink said. Just to hear them excited about the way we were playing for a change in the Ryder Cup was refreshing. Ive never been able to experience that myself when we were ahead. So its great.
 
Azinger told the Kentucky crowd ' he called them the 13th man ' at a pep rally Thursday night that it was OK to cheer if Europe missed a putt. He defended that remark as educational, and said the crowd did nothing to embarrass itself.
 
Westwood, however, took issue with Weekley whipping the crowd into a frenzy before the 12th hole was completed.
 
You walk a fine line when you start doing that sort of thing, Westwood said. I dont mind raising your arms and whipping the crowd up. But at 12 when Boo holed off the back (of the green), Ive still got a putt for the halve. Theres no need to do it between shots. At least wait until were walking off the green.
 
Westwood glared at him, and occasionally shook his head. But he kept his opinions to himself on the course.
 
Its not my job to tell people how to behave, he said.
 
Harrington, Europes best player with three majors since the last Ryder Cup, had no problem with the exuberance from the 23-year-old Kim, who high-fived Mickelson after an array of great shots and clutch putts.
 
None was bigger than Mickelson, who has struggled with his putting all summer, knocking in the 20-footer on the 17th hole that gave the Americans a 1-up lead going to the 18th in a match that swung momentum to his side.
 
Anthony, its his first Ryder Cup and he was excited out there, Harrington said. And he hit some great shots at times, and he had a right to be excited.
 
So did the rest of the American team.
 
Even though they were on home soil, they found themselves in foreign territory ' in the lead at the Ryder Cup.
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
  • Getty Images

    PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

    Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

    The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

    The statement reads:

    The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

    Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

    The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

    The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

    The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

    Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

    By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

    Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

    Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

    It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

    Goodbye and good riddance.

    The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

    “What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.

    Amen.

    The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

    Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.



    Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

    But at what cost?

    The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

    The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

    We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

    In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

    We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

    Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

    We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

    “What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

    Amen again.

    We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

    Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

    There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

    This is good governance.

    And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

    This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

    We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

    Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

    Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

    Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

    By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

    Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

    David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

    “Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

    Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

    “I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

    Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

    The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

    Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

    Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

    1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

    2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

    While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

    Getty Images

    PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

    The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

    PGA Tour:

    The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

    LPGA:

    We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.