Golf Hall of Fame Suffering Through Image Crisis
He had all the credentials to be included among the best who ever played the game, with 25 career victories on the PGA Tour and three major championships.
'Wow, where can I start?' Singh said when he was introduced as the 105th member.
Then he showed that he's not finished.
The next day he shot 64. By the end of the week, Singh won the Houston Open to become the first repeat winner in its 60-year history, become only the second player to surpass $40 million in career earnings and close within three victories of Sam Snead's record of 17 tour victories after turning 40.
They can start the engraving at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., but it would be best to etch only his name into granite. The 42-year-old Fijian might have a half-dozen more victories and another major when he is inducted. It doesn't seem right.
The Hall of Fame is supposed to be the cherry on top of an illustrious career, not a palate cleanser. It would be like Dan Marino going back to training camp with the Miami Dolphins, or Wade Boggs deciding to play one more year with the Boston Red Sox. But golf isn't like other sports.
'They don't retire,' said Jack Peter, chief operating officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame. 'The age and all the criteria on the ballot are things we review continuously. There's no right answer. It's all very subjective. Is 40 the right age? Is 50 the right age?'
Nick Faldo was elected on the International ballot in 1998 at age 40, two years after he won his sixth major. Singh was the youngest player elected from the PGA Tour ballot, and he won't even be the youngest player at the induction ceremony on Nov. 14. Karrie Webb, who earned her way in through the LPGA points system, will be 30.
Annika Sorenstam was inducted two years ago when she was 33. She won eight times the next year, including her seventh major, and has won all three tournaments she has played this season, including major No. 8.
Is it fair to make Webb wait 20 years to get inducted?
'There's a school of thought that says it's a good thing for Vijay Singh and Annika Sorenstam to carry the Hall of Fame mantra while competing at such a high level,' Peter said. 'It's not a perfect science.'
Still, the World Golf Hall of Fame has some imperfections. Officials are so desperate to increase membership in the Hall of Fame that they have watered down the standards twice in the last four years.
When the new Hall of Fame opened in 1998, candidates had to receive at least 75 percent of the vote. But after no one from the PGA Tour was elected in 2000, the criteria was lowered to 65 percent, paving the way for the late Payne Stewart to get elected in 2001, Ben Crenshaw and Tony Jacklin a year later.
Then, it added a clause in 2003 that if no one gets 65 percent, it will take the highest vote-getter provided he is on at least 50 percent of the ballot. Isao Aoki got in last year under that technicality, and Singh made it this year when he was named on only 56 percent of the ballots.
'When there are 20 names on the ballot, what could happen is that votes get spread out, and inherently it drops all the percentages across the board,' Peter said. 'I don't think an individual should be penalized for that.'
It hasn't seemed to hurt baseball, which had 27 names on the last year's ballot. Boggs and Ryne Sandberg each got at least 75 percent of the vote.
Then again, how Singh only got 56 percent is a mystery. Along with the 25 tour trophies, Singh had the No. 1 ranking, two money titles, a Vardon Trophy and PGA Tour player of the year. Neither Crenshaw nor Stewart had those credentials, yet each got over 65 percent.
It could be that voters simply weren't ready to put Singh into the Hall of Fame with his career in full flight. Perhaps their focus was on those who no longer play at the highest level (Larry Nelson and Curtis Strange) or are no longer alive (Henry Picard, Craig Wood, Denny Shute).
'It's a subjective process,' Peter said. 'I don't know how or why people vote the way they do.'
The hard part is figuring out who votes.
When the Hall of Fame was at Pinehurst, a committee came up with a list of candidates and submitted them to a vote of the Golf Writers Association of America, and 75 percent of the vote was required for election. Clean and simple.
Ballots now go to Hall of Fame members, golf writers, the board of the PGA and Champions tours, and executives of groups that signed up to be on the Hall of Fame advisory board, which includes the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the American Junior Golf Association and the Golf Course Builders Association of America.
Oh, and a representative from Shell Oil gets a vote because it sponsors the Hall of Fame.
What further hurts the credibility is that the Hall of Fame won't release vote totals, only percentages. That's the same tactic the PGA Tour uses when announcing its player of the year; it doesn't release votes, only who won.
Ultimately, the greatest challenge facing the World Golf Hall of Fame is the perception that it's under the thumb of the PGA Tour. And perhaps that's why some see it more as a marketing tool than a shrine.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.”