A Major-less Mantel for Tiger

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2003, 4:00 pm
SANDWICH, England (AP) -- Slump? Tiger Woods -- and those trying to knock him off -- snickered at the notion all along.
``He's won eight majors and he's 27-years-old,'' Ernie Els said. ``If I had his record, I would not be out here. I would be out of here. It's ridiculous. I cannot take it serious.''
Woods certainly doused talk of a career downturn with his dominating victory at the Western Open last week. Of course, this guy is held to a different standard than everyone else, which is why his mantel looks so empty.
For the first time since 1999, Woods doesn't have possession of any Grand Slam trophy. It's a glaring circumstance, one he hopes to rectify at the British Open.
As usual, Woods is the overwhelming favorite. But, as Els (British), Rich Beem (PGA Championship), Mike Weir (Masters) and Jim Furyk (U.S. Open) demonstrated at the last four majors, Tiger can be tamed.
If Woods doesn't win at Royal St. George's, he'll go to the PGA Championship needing a victory to avoid his first season without a major since 1998.
That is no small motivation. As a kid, Woods already was chasing Jack Nicklaus, who won a record 18 major titles. Ten away from catching his idol, Woods wants to get his pursuit back on course.
He's always tried to taper his routine to ensure his best play at the Big Four. As he is wont to say, ``If you win one major, you've had a great year.''
Woods wasn't much of a factor in the first half of the Grand Slam, tying for 15th at the Masters and 20th at the U.S. Open. But he made an emphatic statement at the Western Open, blowing away a strong field on the way to a five-stroke victory.
``He's one of the only guys I would sit and watch hit balls all day long,'' said Beem, the distant runner-up. ``When you get into a groove, golf seems really easy and fun. For him, it's even easier than it is for everyone else. Obviously, he's got unbelievable amounts of game.''
Woods took great satisfaction from silencing those who wanted to turn his 3 1/2-month winless streak into something more. After all, he played only four official events in that span -- and never finished out of the top 20.
A slump? Hardly. All the while, Woods was working on his game, fine-tuning his swing and settling his putting stroke for a run at major No. 9.
``As I'm walking around, people are asking that question all the time. 'When are you going to start playing good again?''' he said. ``Golf is very, very difficult. And to be honest with you, I'm pleased with the way I've been playing.''
Actually, Woods has only himself to blame for raising the bar so high. Coming off knee surgery, he won three of the first four times he teed it up this year. When he didn't win, it was an upset.
``I'm sure that's going to be how it is my entire career,'' he said. ``If I don't win for a few weeks, then all of a sudden I'm back in it again. One of the things I've learned about being out here is not to get trapped in this up-and-down roller coaster of the press. Sensationalism. That's what sells.''
Then again, Woods helped turn up the attention-meter with his campaign against ``hot'' drivers. Heading into the Western, he went so far as to say he knew of one player who was using illegal equipment to increase the length of his shots.
``I'm not the only one that feels that way,'' he said. ``We're trying to protect the integrity of the game.''
Coincidentally -- or maybe not -- the one glaring flaw in Woods' game is his performance off the tee. Normally one of the PGA Tour's longest hitters, he ranks 21st in driving distance (293.4 yards) and 116th in driving accuracy (hitting the fairway only 64.5 percent of the time).
But that's nitpicking. With his victory at the Western, Woods has won at least four tournaments in five straight years. No one -- not even Nicklaus -- had accomplished that feat.
``I've been able to not only be consistent, but close the deal, too,'' Woods said. ``That's where you ultimately want to be. It's also one of the reasons why I changed my game back in '97, '98, the beginning of '99, to be more consistent, put myself there more often and give myself a chance to win. It's paid off.''
A victory at Sandwich would propel Woods into another exclusive club. Nicklaus is the only other golfer to claim a double career Grand Slam -- winning each of the majors at least twice -- and he was three years older when he reached the milestone in 1970.
Woods' first British Open victory came three years ago at St. Andrews, where he romped to an eight-stroke win. He would like to erase the memory of last year's trip across the pond, when a third-round 81 -- his worst score as a pro -- knocked him out of contention.
While overhauling his swing in the 1990s, Woods played in 10 majors without winning. He was hardly ordinary in that period, finishing in the top 10 five times, and he emerged from the transformation as a more complete player.
Woods no longer has to rely on pure power. He can get away with a flaw in his timing. His shot repertoire is much deeper.
``I'm just like you. I'm a golfer,'' he said. ``It's the eternal thing. You're always going to try and get better.''
Woods has won seven of the last 15 majors, a streak that began at the 1999 PGA Championship and included the ``Tiger Slam,'' when he became the first player to hold all four majors at the same time.
In that context, does the past year qualify as a slump? C'mon, get real.
``We laugh at it,'' Els said. ``I think Tiger should laugh at it, because it's crazy.''
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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.


    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.”