Notes Big Changes for the Big Easy
First, the Big Easy sold his G-4 plane when he got to Dallas for the Byron Nelson Championship. Then he switched the shafts in his irons, going to lighter models. And during his two weeks at home in London, he ended his one-year relationship with IMG and will switch to British agent Chubby Chandler.
This will be his fourth agent since leaving longtime manager Nick Frangos in 2002.
I just felt like I needed a change, and that was that, Els said Tuesday. Ive been changing quite rapidly recently, so its not that big a deal. But Im looking forward to the future.
Chandler also handles Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.
As for the plane?
Els is upgrading to a G-5, but hell have to wait until next May before it is delivered. He said the G-5 has a range that is about four hours more than his old plane, important for a guy who travels the globe.
I sold it for a profit, which was very strange in todays day and age, Els said. So thats why I did it. I got a good deal on the other one.
Els is flying by charter until he gets the new plane.
Otherwise, we would have flown here by British Airways or something, he said. The last time Els flew commercial, a mix-up put him in the middle seat in coach.
The U.S. Open has sold out every year since 1987, usually within a week after tickets go on sale. The Masters has a waiting list even for practice rounds. The Players Championship has been a sellout 17 straight years.
But when it comes to the PGA Championship, its all about location, location, location.
With three months to go, the PGA Championship at Baltusrol (Aug. 11-14) still has plenty of tickets available.
August in the Northeast is a tough month, tournament director Andy Bush said. The biggest thing is the competition in the New York marketplace. They have access to almost everything. It seems like the general ticket buyer always purchases a little bit later ... once they figure out where theyre going to be.
It doesnt help that the New York Yankees are home all week, against the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers.
Whistling Straits had record crowds, but Wisconsin doesnt get major championship golf very often. Ditto for Hazeltine outside Minneapolis and Valhalla in Kentucky.
The good news for the PGA Championship is the corporate market in New York is second to none, and the tournament already has sold more than 90 percent of its chalets.
The PGA Championship sent out a news release last week trying to boost sales, although it was a mixed message. It began by stating that there were still tickets available'practice rounds, early rounds and the final round. Then, it suggested fans share weekly badges with so much demand for tickets.
It also said there would be a cap of 35,000 fans at Baltusrol each day. The bigger question is whether the PGA Championship will have that many people.
Tiger Woods hit a 3-wood that measured 321 yards during the Wachovia Championship earlier this month and someone asked why he was hitting it so far.
These fairways are a little like landing on trampolines, Woods said. You get the ball lying on the correct knob, you can run this ball out there a long way.
The word trampoline has been associated with thin faces of drivers, but the USGA might now apply it to agronomy. Senior technical director Dick Rugge said the USGA has applied for a patent on a new device that measures the bounce on fairways and how greens receive approach shots.
Rugge said the tool was developed by the same man who created the pendulum tester, the portable device that measures trampoline effect in drivers.
Its been down to Pinehurst, Rugge said of the device. Its not quite ready for prime time, and we dont know what the numbers mean. But its part of the whole picture. We arent just focused on the golf ball. Were focused on how the game is played.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are among those lobbying for a shorter season, although they dont need the PGA Tour to fix that.
Steve Stricker is a perfect example.
For years, Stricker has shut it down in early September to hunt and spend time with his family. He almost cost himself a spot in the Tour Championship in 2001 by taking off six weeks, barely holding down the 30th spot.
Stricker no longer has that luxury, having finished outside the top 150 on the money list. That gives him a different perspective on two fronts'someone who knows the season is as long as a player wants to make it, and someone who now needs as many opportunities as possible.
He is more concerned with the communities that get the PGA Tour once a year.
There are some events that struggle, he said. But to get rid of them, I dont think the towns themselves would be happy. They support the tour, they want to be part of it. Its a growing sport. I think it would hurt a lot of people if you start to get rid of some tournaments.
Already the hometown favorite at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., John Daly was an even bigger hit last week when we treated some 600 volunteers to a barbecue on Tuesday before the tournament. Weve been wanting to do it for years, and we finally got a bar, Daly said. ... It isnt quite the same as when Eugeno Saraceni changed his name to Gene Sarazen, but Jung Yeon Lee on the LPGA Tour will now go by Sarah Lee. ... Annika Sorenstam set another record last week, taking only six tournaments to surpass $1 million in a season.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Only four times since 1995 has a player won a PGA Tour event without making a birdie in the final 18 holes of regulation'Vijay Singh in the 1995 Buick Classic and 2004 PGA Championship, and Justin Leonard in the 2002 WorldCom Classic at Hilton Head and the 2005 St. Jude Classic.
I want to turn the TV on Sunday afternoon late in the year, and its not to watch Justin Leonard come down the stretch at whatever tournament. Its to watch the Steelers.'Jim Furyk, on the PGA Tour going up against football in the fall.
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.”