Match Play offers snapshot of golf scene

By Associated PressMarch 1, 2011, 7:43 pm

MARANA, Arizona (AP)—The PGA Tour could have skipped the West Coast swing andgone straight to the Match Play Championship, which provided a perfect snapshotof everything going in the world of golf.

Europe looked as strong as ever.

Martin Kaymer showed why he is No. 1 in the world ranking. Lee Westwood madepeople wonder why he was.

Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler , when they’re not making videos for Twitter,offered more evidence that their homemade golf swings are just as compelling astheir fashion accessories.

Martin Kaymer of Germany hits …
AP - Feb 27, 5:26 pm EST

And has anyone seen Tiger Woods ?

Europe has been the strongest continent in golf over the last year, and DoveMountain was no exception. Luke Donald of England and Kaymer (Germany) reachedthe championship match, the second straight year for an all-European final.

Donald was so good that he never trailed after any hole in any of his sixmatches, and wound up playing fewer holes (89) than the winner of the Bob HopeClassic (92). Who would have guessed that?

After winning, Donald said European golf was going through a “purplepatch.”

For the Americans, it’s more black-and-blue.

Only two Americans have reached the championship match in the last fiveyears—Woods and Stewart Cink in 2008. One year ago, Americans were Nos. 1-2-3in the world ranking. Europe now occupies the first four spots in the rankingfor the first time in nearly two decades. Woods is the highest-ranked Americanat No. 5, his lowest position since the week before he won the 1997 Masters.

Before anyone writes the Americans off too quickly, they have had sixwinners on the PGA Tour this year. Then again, their average ranking when theywon was No. 171. Watson at Torrey Pines was the only winner inside the top 75.

The best American at the moment? Good question.

Mark Wilson has won twice, at the Sony Open and Phoenix Open, which doesn’texactly make him a favorite at the Masters, where he will be playing a major foronly the fourth time.

Wilson advanced to the second round of the Match Play, and that wasnoteworthy for whom he beat—Dustin Johnson .

There was little debate that Johnson was the most promising young Americangoing into 2011, if not one of the emerging talents in the world. Two monthsinto the season, however, he has only made news because of Natalie Gulbis andJim Gray.

He was linked romantically to Gulbis until the LPGA star said that Johnsonwas handling their PR. Meanwhile, Gray was sent home by the Golf Channel forasking Johnson in the middle of his round why he was late to the tee for atwo-shot penalty.

Speaking of tardiness, the Match Play Championship renewed talk about thepace of play.

One week after Kevin Na nearly turned Riviera into a five-day tournament,J.B. Holmes took some of the shine off a riveting match because he was sodeliberate. Watson rallied from 5 down with eight holes to play to square thematch on the 18th and win it on the 19th. But the match took nearly five hoursto play, and not all of that is down to rulings from the desert on the final twoholes.

The opening match of the tournament between Cink and Ian Poulter took overfour hours before it reached the 18th hole. Part of the delay was when they eachmade double bogey on the par-3 sixth, prompting rules official Stephen Cox totell Poulter on the next fairway, “Look, I realize you’ve both taken a trip toIn-N-Out for a double-double, but I’d appreciate it if you would pick up thepace.”

Watson and Fowler won’t get accused of slow play.

Both of them bring old-school qualities to the game, and both are reachingthe point where they can move the needle.

Watson, with the pink shaft in his driver and a $525,000 watch he sportedfrom a Richard Mille endorsement, came within one hole of winning the PGAChampionship last year. He held off Phil Mickelson to win at Torrey Pines, andshowed off his tremendous shotmaking at Dove Mountain. He’s always had rawtalent. Now he is getting comfortable with the spotlight.

Fowler, dressed in pink from his shoes to his cap, hit two of the mostimpressive shots all week with his 4-iron to 15 feet for eagle on the 11th and a4-iron to 2 feet for eagle on the 13th to hand Mickelson is worst loss ever inthe event.

Fowler went down the next day, not unusual at this tournament. He has allthe tools to be a star except the most important asset, which is a trophy. Butas Mickelson said in defeat, “I think he’s going to do a lot for Americangolf.”

Mickelson remains an enigma. He played six straight weeks, from Abu Dhabi toDove Mountain, with only one chance at winning.

That’s still one more chance than Woods, who remains the biggest mystery ingolf.

There is not much to say about the former No. 1, although that didn’t stopTV commentary from gushing that swing coach Sean Foley said Woods’ spin rate andlaunch angle were leveling out. Good to know.

He lost on the 19th hole to Thomas Bjorn with a swing Woods had to rehearsetoo many times and a 3-wood into the desert. It wasn’t as awful as it looked,for the right side of the fairway is the best angle to make birdie. Even so, hewould have been better off missing the 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole thatforced overtime than losing the way he did.

Johnny Miller compared Woods with Mike Tyson, not because of Iron Mike’scriminal behavior and outrageous comments, but because he was never the sameafter losing to Buster Douglas.

The longer Woods goes without winning, it’s not unreasonable to wonder aboutthat.

Getty Images

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.”