Miyazato Mania Returns for Sophomore Season
In the first two LPGA Tour events of the year, the pint-sized shotmaker commanded the largest galleries and media attention. There were more than 50 Japanese reporters and photographers in Ai's Army following her every move in the Fields Open, which ended Saturday with Miyazato closing with a 66 to tie for third.
'I get so much exposure in the Japanese media that (American) people see me not for my golf but as this person who is famous in Japan,' she said. 'But if I win here and move up, I think they'll respect my golf. I'd like people to start to see my game.'
The 21-year-old Miyazato is entering her second season the LPGA Tour after a winless rookie season. She had seven top-10 finishes last year, including a third-place tie in the LPGA Championship.
'Playing in each tournament last year was a really good experience,' said Miyazato, who lives part-time in Orange County, Calif. 'It was my dream to improve my game and then come play in the United States. I had some tough times last year but it was really fun.'
Many challenges confronted Miyazato.
'First, English. Next, the level of play is much higher than Japan. Everyone here is very competitive, so to win, you need a lot of concentration,' she said.
She's still working on her English, which has improved greatly with the help of manager Takumi Zaoya, but it isn't as smooth as her effortless swing.
Her goals this year are simple: to win soon and finish in the top-10 on the money list. She finished 22nd last year with $532,053 in 21 events.
It's not as though Miyazato hasn't experienced winning. It seems she adds to her trophy collection almost every time she returns to Japan, winning twice last year, giving her 13 victories in three years.
So why not stay in Japan and keep winning?
'I want to be more strong like Tiger Woods,' she said. 'There's a lot more I can learn in Japan, but it's been my dream to win over here, and I want to fulfill my dream.'
At 5-foot-1 and maybe breaking 100 pounds after hitting an all-you-can-eat sushi bar, Miyazato rivals South Korea's Mi Hyun Kim for the most diminutive player on tour.
But she has no problem off the tees and rarely gets herself into trouble. She ranked ninth on tour last year in rounds in the 60s and 13th in rounds under par.
Miyazato grew up in Okinawa and learned the game from her father, Masaru Miyazato, a golf pro. She has two brothers who play professionally in Japan.
After Miyazato missed the cut in the season-opening SBS Open because of her woeful putting, her father came to Hawaii to give her a slight tuneup. After adjusting her grip, Miyazato was back in form and finished tied for third at the Fields Open in Hawaii, matching her best finish since joining the tour.
Miyazato said the thing she loves the most about golf is: 'You can practice and practice and there's no limit to how much good you can get.'
No limits is what Miyazato is all about. Her web site is ai-miyazato54.com and she also signs her autograph 'Ai 54.' The 54 represents the vision of a round of 18-under par -- or one birdie per hole.
She said the most challenging part about golf is that even with the physical ability and technical skills, you need the right state of mind.
'You can't just practice, you also have to care about the mental aspects of the game. That's very difficult,' she said.
Dealing with the media, on the other hand, is a breeze for her.
Morgan Pressel, first got a glimpse of Miyazato mania at Q-school in 2005 where the Japanese star won by a record 12 strokes. She said the media circus was 'crazy.'
At Miyazato's rookie debut at last year's SBS Open, tournament officials had to open a separate banquet hall for the media. The previous year, there were only about a dozen reporters even with hometown hero Michelle Wie in the field.
There were several other LPGA events where the media rooms had to be expanded.
'It's amazing that so many come,' Miyazato said. 'It's a mystery to me.'
To others, it's not so mysterious. Miyazato is dedicated, personable, articulate and possesses a smile as famous as Mount Fuji.
Her popularity is so strong that TV ratings for a tournament she won a few years ago were three times higher than the men's event in Japan that week, which featured Tiger Woods winning wire-to-wire at the Dunlop Phoenix.
'She's mentally strong,' said Yukiko Naruse, a 39-year-old office worker from Tokyo, who watched Miyazato in the Fields. 'Of the young generation of players, she's the first to make it to the majors. That's why I think everyone watches her.'
With the cameras and reporters always in tow, Miyazato realizes that a nation is watching her every move and anxiously awaiting her first LPGA Tour victory.
'I'm here because it's my dream, so it's for me. But I have a lot of fans in Japan. They have great expectations for me and I also want to win for them,' she said.
Copyright 2007 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.”