New Augusta Chairman Studies Old Traditions

By Associated PressFebruary 6, 2007, 5:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- For the last eight years, a corner coffee table in the chairman's office at Augusta National held a framed photograph that illustrated the powerful heritage at the home of the Masters.
 
It showed a stone-faced Clifford Roberts standing next to a smiling Hootie Johnson, both in their green jackets, the chairman in memoriam and the chairman emeritus, No. 1 and No. 5 in the 74-year lineage of the club.
 
The sixth chairman is Billy Payne, who is two months away from presiding over his first Masters.
 
On the corner coffee table is a picture of his grandchildren.
 
Payne is the first Masters chairman who never met Roberts, the man who ruled the club and its tournament with an iron fist, and who many believe still rules in spirit. He died in 1977, some 10 years before Payne first played the course as a guest of Charlie Yates -- a former British Amateur champion who learned golf from Bobby Jones and played in the first Masters.
 
But those who think this 'new era in golf' also extends to the Masters might want to heed that time-tested axiom at Augusta.
 
Slow down.
 
'Let me make it clear,' Payne said, leaning forward in his chair. 'History will never forget Cliff Roberts and his contributions to this club and this tournament. He will always be the chairman. I will be nothing more than someone who appeared on the list. Maybe there will be an asterisk by it that said, 'First Georgia resident.'
 
'But other than that,' he added, 'there's so much preservation of custom and tradition that's such an important part of the job. Just to be among the list of men whose lives have been so dedicated to this place, that's enough.'
 
OK, so don't hold your breath on that first woman in a green jacket.
 
When he accepted the job eight months ago, Payne didn't see any reason to open a dialogue with Martha Burk, and that hasn't changed. Members will deliberate and decide all issues related to membership, and the club doesn't discuss membership.
 
'And I don't have anything to add to that,' he said.
 
Payne is hardly a puppet. He combines hard work with big dreams. Proof of that comes from a vision he had leaving church in 1987 that grew into reality when Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympics.
 
There will be changes at Augusta. They will not be made overnight.
 
'We are not compelled ever to move too quickly,' he said.
 
Payne, however, has shown to be a quick study. The club has enormous archives of its history, and the chairman rarely goes to sleep without delving into Roberts' files. He has tried to learn what made Roberts tick, how he communicated and how people responded. He was amazed at the attention Roberts paid to even the most minor detail, such as knowing the exact metallic weight of trophies.
 
'I would have liked him,' Payne said. 'I'm sorry I didn't have the opportunity to know him.'
 
No doubt he stumbled across Roberts' desire to keep the Masters the most exclusive major championship, which is guiding Payne as he prepares for his first significant change.
 
The other majors have 156-man fields. The Masters had only 92 players tee off last April, typical of a tournament that never has had more than 109 players in its field.
 
'The player field being small, many tournament formalities and regulations are eliminated,' Roberts once wrote. 'The first consideration is to provide a first-class golf course in as beautiful and nearly perfect condition as effort can make it; and secondly, to show our player-guests every possible courtesy.'
 
Payne wants to restore starting in 2008 the eligibility criteria that PGA TOUR winners receive an automatic invitation to the Masters. Johnson did away with the category after the '99 Masters when the tour began scheduling events -- usually with weak fields -- the same week as the World Golf Championships and the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
 
But bringing back the 'win-and-you're in' category is not that simple.
 
Should the Masters recognize winners from opposite-field events in Mexico, Milwaukee and Reno, not to mention the seven events after the FedExCup? And does it continue to take the top 40 on the PGA TOUR money list or the top 30 in the FedExCup? Or both?
 
'There's a lot of arithmetic in this,' Payne said. 'What you don't want is all of a sudden to have 100 playing participants, and we have arguably eroded the quality of the tournament. Notwithstanding folks' opinion of how the best way to get there is, we're going to do the best we can.'
 
His goal is to keep the field around 90 players, and 'anything that puts that number at significant threat has got an uphill battle.'
 
The other change will be in new media coverage of the Masters. There was streaming video of Amen Corner on the Masters' Web site last year, and Payne said that likely will be expanded.
 
'I think you'll see more toes in the water, testing our theories,' he said. Payne didn't elaborate -- another trait of chairmen at the Masters -- although he is not convinced Web-based video competes with a network telecast.
 
He does believe his mandate is to bring the Masters to a larger audience, just as Roberts made sure the tournament had radio coverage when it began in 1934, television coverage in 1956 and then catered to the international press to expand its worldwide coverage.
 
'We treasure our reputation in the media world of being, in many cases, the first to do things, and consistently, the best,' he said. 'That same philosophical approach will dictate through time how we utilize these new media opportunities.'
 
Any changes will reflect a new generation at the Masters, even if old traditions die hard.
 
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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.”