Dangerous winds suspend play at Humana

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2012, 11:21 pm

LA QUINTA, Calif. – When the wind knocked a big scoreboard into a lake and ripped a few trees out of the ground Saturday, Mark Wilson realized he really didn’t mind if he couldn’t finish his third round at the Humana Challenge.

Wilson and his fellow pros were more than happy to wait out the windstorm and just come back Sunday, when Wilson will attempt to maintain his momentum for what might be a marathon finish to the erstwhile Bob Hope Classic.

Wilson held a three-stroke lead over Ben Crane at 21 under when play was suspended play midway through the third round. Ferocious wind reaching 35 mph caused damage on all three courses, even interrupting former President Bill Clinton’s round with Greg Norman.

“I think they made the right call,” Wilson said. “You don’t want to see anybody get hurt.”

The pro-am tournament will resume third-round play Sunday morning without the amateurs. They’ll also attempt to finish the fourth round, which could be tough after the event’s first wind delay since 1999 - the first on the PGA Tour since 2009 in Houston.

Nobody was hurt by the wind at the Humana Challenge, even after an awning collapsed in the Bob Hope Square fan area. Conditions weren’t terrible on two of the tournament’s three courses, but several trees were toppled at the La Quinta Country Club course, making the decision easy.

“It’s really bad,” said Slugger White, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions. “They’ve got a lot of trees down. It’s a real mess. … We knew (the wind) was going to be bad, but we thought it would be something we could play with, and then the bottom fell out.”

La Quinta didn’t even get the worst of the Coachella Valley craziness: A 66-mph gust was recorded at the Palm Springs airport.

White said he believes they can finish the four-round event Sunday “in a perfect world.” Wilson doubts it after vicious gusts interrupted a previously perfect weekend of Palm Springs weather.

Wilson got through the first eight holes at La Quinta under ideal conditions, but the light winds suddenly turned into gales. He battled to five straight pars before a birdie on his 15th hole of the day, but play was suspended moments later.

“It’s amazing how it happened so quickly,” said Wilson, who was 5 under through 15 holes. “I went from the mentality of making birdies to just making solid pars when I could.”

None of the 142 pros finished the third round, but nearly everybody was around the turn when the wind kicked up - blowing balls around the course, sending that large scoreboard into a lake on the Palmer Private course and causing mischief in the fan area. White said the grounds crews would use chainsaws to remove the fallen trees at La Quinta.

With tee times starting at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, White believes it might be possible to finish the event on time “in a perfect world.” Most players are staying in Southern California next week for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

“I doubt it. I’ve done the math,” Wilson said. “I don’t know how they could get it done tomorrow, but if we do, I would love to get it done. More power to them.”

Clinton, who’s hosting the tournament, and Greg Norman had just hit their tee shots on the 10th hole of the Palmer Private course when play was suspended. A short time later, the scoreboard blew into the lake that’s flanked by the 10th and 18th holes, leaving oversized number placards floating in the water.

Wilson shared the lead after two rounds with Crane and David Toms, who dropped back to 15 under. Zach Johnson moved within four strokes of the lead after going 6 under through 13 holes.

“We knew there was wind in the forecast, but I’ve never really experienced anything like that,” Johnson said. “Not that quick and that fierce and that intense in that amount of time.”

Until the wind kicked up, extremely low scores had dominated the first two days. Robert Garrigus jumped into contention Saturday by making nine birdies in 13 holes on the Nicklaus Private course before play was suspended.

Garrigus joined John Mallinger and John Senden at 16 under, five strokes behind Wilson.

Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer’s grandson, made a hole-in-one on the fifth hole of the Palmer course.


Because of Saturday's weather delay, Golf Channel will begin its Sunday coverage of the Humana Challenge an hour earlier than originally scheduled. The Golf Central pregame show will run from 2:30-3 p.m. ET, then the live coverage of the tournament will run from 3-7 p.m. ET.

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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.”

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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.