Els streak reaches 18

By Associated PressJune 16, 2010, 4:03 am

2010 U.S. OpenPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – It doesn’t feel like Ernie Els has been playing in U.S. Opens for nearly two decades.

Yet, this week’s Open is the 18th straight for Els, the longest consecutive streak of any player in the field, one ahead of Phil Mickelson and two better than Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh.

But other than his second place finish 15 shots back of Woods in 2000 at Pebble Beach, the Open has become just another week for Els. While most players would be thrilled with 10 top-25 finishes in 17 U.S. Open starts entering this week, Els’ opinion of his U.S. Open performances is always tempered by the titles he won in 1994 and ’97 that instantly raised his own expectations.

Major championships – and U.S. Open titles in general – went from being a great accomplishment, to an expected result.

“(In) 2000 came here, and finished second, although I was never really in the ball game. And I haven’t really done too much since then. I might have had a couple of top-10s or top-5s since then, but not really something really spectacular,” Els said. “You know, I had a great start to my major campaign. And as I say, I’ve won two, won another Open Championship, but I haven’t really capitalized on the chances I’ve had.”

Els has played well this season at times, inconsistently at others. He won back-to-back titles at Doral and Bay Hill in March, but wasn’t able to translate that into a strong showing at The Masters, where Els finished in a tie for 18th. Els has played only three times since Augusta – missing the cut twice, sandwiched around a third place showing at the Texas Open.

When Els arrived at Pebble Beach on Sunday, it was his first visit since the 2000 Open, he said. His preparation for this week included a trip to Pine Valley with his dad and a practice round at Pebble when he arrived on the Monterey Peninsula.

“As a venue I don’t think you can get a better venue any place in the world,” Els said. “So it’s great to be back.”


CHILL IN THE AIR: It was chilly enough as Tiger Woods played his practice round on Tuesday. As he waited for two groups ahead of him on the 10th tee, it got even cooler.

The gallery parted, and Tom Watson stepped onto the tee.

Watson made small talk with some of the players, the gallery and Roger Maltbie, but made no effort to speak to Woods, who was sitting on the bench. Woods never made eye contact with Watson or any attempt to speak to him.

Watson was critical of Woods earlier this year, saying that along with needing to show more humility after his downfall, he needed to clean up his language on the course.

Both are U.S. Open champions at Pebble Beach and Stanford alumni.


CAN’T LET IT GO: Though they’re covering golf, not soccer, members of the British media at Pebble Beach were still focusing on the big news of the week in their country: The goal Robert Green gave up in a 1-1 tie against the United States at the World Cup on Saturday.

It has been widely regarded as one of the worst goals ever allowed, and two British newspapers used the headline “Hand of Clod” – a riff on the famous “Hand of God” goal by Diego Maradona in 1986 that ousted England from the World Cup.

British reporters asked for Lee Westwood’s take: “Mistakes happen,” he said. “I’ve made them on the golf course, at spectacular times. You’re not trying to do it, it’s just one of those things.”

And Tiger Woods: “It was a gift. Certainly was a gift. That was a nice little gift on the goal there,” Woods said. “I hope he gets a chance to play and is not finished.”

As for the of vuvuzelas that have become the soundtrack of the tournament, Els said he wouldn’t mind hearing the constant buzz at the U.S. Open.

Well, maybe just during the practice rounds.

“I think it’d be cool,” the South Africa native said. “(But) I don’t think the USGA would ever allow it on the grounds. Maybe practice rounds, that would give a bit of more spirit to things. Those things are really loud, though.”

Els said he’s hoping to make it back to South Africa for a game later in the tournament and was impressed by the performance of his home country in their 1-1 tie against Mexico to open the tournament.

“With all the noise going on there, I think it’s a real great atmosphere for the players down there,” he said.


HARRINGTON SURGERY: Former British Open champion Padraig Harrington arrived at the U.S. Open just three weeks after undergoing minor knee surgery.

Harrington, who missed the cut at last year’s Open and was in a tie for fifth in the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach, said his knee has responded well to the eight-hour surgery.

“It’s responded well, I’m comfortable,” Harrington said. “While it needs a certain amount of minding and I have to look after it, it’s not posing any problem to me playing golf.”

Harrington has made 11 PGA Tour starts this season with his best finish a tie for third at the CA Championships. He finished in a tie for 16th at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am earlier this year.

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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.”