Dufner, Steele lead PGA Championship through 54 holes

By Associated PressAugust 13, 2011, 6:33 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Brendan Steele is playing in his first major championship. Jason Dufner has never won a PGA Tour event.

Hard to tell at the PGA Championship.

The no-names stayed cool on a sweltering Saturday at Atlanta Athletic Club, setting up a final round that will be short on recognizable faces but could end a major drought for the Americans. Steele shot 4-under 66 and was tied with Dufner, who joined him at 7-under 203 with a 68.

“It’s a great week for me just to be in the field,” Steele said. “To have a chance to actually win in my first major is really something special.”

Keegan Bradley, another guy playing in his first major, bounced back from a double bogey at the first hole for a 69 that left just one stroke back heading to the final round, another perfect fit for what is developing as the theme of the year’s final major.

Who are these guys anyway?

“Coming up to the final hole with the sun going down,” Bradley said, “that was kind of cool.”

Tiger Woods, defending PGA champion Martin Kaymer and several other stars are watching from home, failing to make the cut. U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, who came into the week as the favorite, struggled to a 74 with his ailing wrist and won’t be a factor on Sunday.

Into the void stepped several Americans known only to the most ardent golf fans. But they’ve put the U.S. in position to capture its first major title since Phil Mickelson won the 2010 Masters. Since then, it’s an 0-for-6 drought, this country’s longest of the modern Grand Slam era.

The 34-year-old Dufner, who had not made a cut since late May, showed his moxie after a couple of three-putt bogeys knocked him out of the lead. He bounced back with a birdie at the 15th, the longest par-3 on the course, and made it two in a row by rolling in a 12-footer at the next hole.

He’s got the closest thing to a home-course advantage among the leaders – he lives about two hours away in Auburn, Ala., and is used to playing in the blistering heat and on Bermuda greens.

“Maybe I’m a little bit surprised to be in the final group at a major,” Dufner said. “But I’m not surprised to be playing well on this type of golf course.”

Steele, a 28-year-old Californian, birdied five of the first 10 holes, shaking off a double bogey at the seventh when he drove into a swale on the left, tried to putt it on and watched in dismay as the ball rolled back to his feet.

Bradley, the 25-year-old nephew of LGPA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, got off to a jittery start. He drove his first shot into a bunker, did the same with the second and wound up taking a double bogey-6. But he quickly steadied himself, dropping only one more shot with a bogey at the seventh on the way to a 204.

“That was a tough first hole, but I really calmed down after that,” he said. “It didn’t really bother me much at all. I played really well.”

There were some familiar names lurking near the top. Forty-seven-year-old Scott Verplank had two late birdies for a 69 and headed to the clubhouse at 205, his creaky body holding up in the heat. Steve Stricker, the top-ranked American in the world at age 44, was another stroke back after a 69 of his own.

Neither of the old-timers has won a major title. Maybe this will be their week.

“It feels great,” Verplank said. “I don’t feel a day older than a hundred.”

Jim Furyk was in the mix until he put two balls in the water at the 18th and took double bogey. The 73 dropped him to 209, a daunting six strokes off the lead. He was joined by the world’s top-ranked players, No. 1 Luke Donald (68) and No. 2 Lee Westwood (70).

Donald closed within a shot of the lead until a brutal finish. He drove into a bunker at the 18th and had no choice but to blast out into the fairway. Then, going at the flag a little too aggressively, he dunked his third shot in the water and wound up taking double bogey.

Masters champion Charl Schwartzel was at 208 after a 66, trying to win a second major title before the year is done.

“The course is just very penalizing,” the South African said. “I just played a little bit more – I want to say conservative maybe – but more clever. A few of the holes that were inviting me the first two rounds, I took with a bit more caution.”

David Toms, who won the PGA the last time it came to Atlanta in 2001, went even lower with a 65 and also was five shots back. He was sparked by a long eagle putt at the 12th, and followed with birdies at 13 and 14. He made another birdie at the tough closing hole after a 5-iron from 190 yards barely cleared the water.

“I thought I got it in there pretty tight,” Toms said. “But obviously, the way the crowd oohed and aahed up there, I was glad to get over the water.”

He won his only major title with a gutsy call at that same hole in 2001. Clinging to a one-shot lead over Phil Mickelson, Toms chose to lay up short of the water with his second shot. He knocked a wedge 12 feet from the hole and made the par putt to hold off Lefty.

Toms started feeling good vibes as he walked up to the 15th, where there’s a plaque marking his most memorable shot from 2001 – a hole-in-one.

“People were saying stuff in the crowd about doing it again, that kind of thing, and you flash black to this time, this week, 10 years ago,” he said. “A lot of memories for sure. The golf course is different. The golf course if much more demanding, so I have to play extremely well.”

Mickelson shot 69 but still had a lot of work to do, going to Sunday seven strokes off the lead.

McIlroy went the wrong way on Moving Day, but he did catch a break at the par-3 17th. His tee shot landed on a rock wall along the bunker, bounced at least 50 feet in the air and came down on the green. He smiled and made par.

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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

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.”