Notes Johnson Lurking Couples Struggling

By Associated PressApril 10, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Zach Johnson got another surprise at the Masters.
This one wasnt quite as good as last years; nothing tops getting your very own green jacket. But its a good bet no other player had the governor of his home state in the gallery, as the defending champion did Thursday when Iowas Chet Culver showed up.
I did not know he was going to be here, Johnson said after shooting a 2-under 70 in the first round that left him tied for sixth. To see his face, I was a little bit surprised. But looking back on it now, being from Iowa and knowing the people and knowing what its all about, certainly meeting Governor Culver and his family, the support is second to none.
Granted, thats where Im from, so Im a little biased.
The self-proclaimed normal guy from Iowa surprised just about everybody when he held off Tiger Woods to win the Masters last year. His victory was considered by many to be little more than a fluke of the weather. The blustery cold prevented others from going low and allowed him to play it safe'he didnt go for a single par 5 all week'and his 1-over 289, tied for highest winning scorer in Masters history.
Yet here Johnson is again near the top of the leaderboard.
Anybody that tees it up this week, for the most part, they are playing here for a reason. One, they have either won here or two, they can win here, he said. Theres not a surprise guy on the leaderboard or a surprise guy in the field, as far as Im concerned.
Johnson will never be confused with the games longest hitter, but his short game is solid and look out if hes putting well. Thats been his biggest problem this year, when hes had just one top-10 finish. But he did just fine in the opening round, making a 15-footer on No. 1 to kick off this years Masters.
He made a wickedly long putt on No. 5 for a second birdie and another 15-footer on the 13th.
I had a decent number today, but it was just Thursday, Johnson said. I felt like I played today for today; in other words, not thinking about tomorrow, not thinking about last year. I played Thursday, April 10th, for April 10th. That kind of sounds pretty simple and elementary, but maybe thats how my brain functions. Its just a good, solid round going into Friday.
Actually, not thinking about last year might be as impressive as those 15-footers.
This has been a hectic week for Johnson. He did a news conference Tuesday after his practice round, then had the Champions Dinner that night. Hes been congratulated and asked for autographs everywhere he turns, and he still cant quite get over the fact hes not going to get busted when he goes into the champions locker room.
I just couldnt wait to get started, he said. I wanted to put last year behind me and start playing again. I dont get first-tee jitters on tour much'I cant remember the last time I did. But I had them here on 1, I had them here on 2. But its good to know I still have some feelings, and good ones at that.
PLAY(ER) IT AGAIN: Gary Players latest triumph at Augusta National was 51 years in the making.
The three-time champion is playing in his 51st Masters this week, topping the record for most played that hed shared with Arnold Palmer.
Its a thrill. Its a thrill to know now I hold the record, Player said. Of course, all records are made to be broken, arent they? Somebody will come along and break 51 one day, I guess.
Not for a while.
Raymond Floyd has the next-longest streak among active players, and hes playing in his 44th Masters. Ben Crenshaw made his 37th start at Augusta National on Thursday.
I hope so! Crenshaw said when asked if hell ever catch Player. To have (Player and Palmer) here this long, theyre so much a part of this place. They made it what it is.
Its been years since Player, a nine-time major champion and one of only five golfers to win the career Grand Slam, was a threat at the Masters. Hes only made the cut twice in the last 17 years and wont again this year after opening with an 11-over 83 on Thursday. But thats not a bad number for a 72-year-old, who now considers 80 his par.
So I was 3-over today, he said. I thought I was going to go for a lot more, but I played the back nine well.
Player shot 39 on the back nine, and had his only birdie of the day on the par-5 13th.
Thats a tough golf course, he said. The toughest golf course that Ive ever played, not even a doubt.
But dont expect him to join Palmer as an honorary starter next year.
I still putt very well and my short game is still very good, he said. I have been playing very nicely and I played very poorly today, really, except the back nine.
OBERHOLSER OUT: With a 1-under 71 Thursday, it would seem Arron Oberholsers array of injuries are behind him.
Not even close.
Oberholser said he will take at least the next two months off after the Masters, and has already received a medical exemption for next season. Hes played only three other events this season.
I cant be out there hitting balls or doing anything, he said. If I take two months completely off and then dont hit a ball and try to come back in the middle of the summer, its going to take me a month to get my game back to where I want it to be, anyway.
I think what Im going to do is just play a couple events late in the season this year and call it a year. Then Ill have 22 or 23 events next year to do what I need.
For months, Oberholser has been feeling a pull on the nerve in his right shoulder when he swings. Sometimes, the pain shoots all the way down to his elbow. His left hand doesnt feel right, either, after having surgery last October to correct a recurring injury.
The doctor who did my surgery didnt understand what a golfer has to do with his left hand to hold a club, and thats where the surgery was. It was right in the palm of my left hand where I hold the golf club, Oberholser said. I came back too early because I thought I could. I can play one round of golf, I might even be able to play two decent rounds of golf. But to play three, four consecutive and then to play two, three weeks in a row, I cant do it.
One thing Oberholser wont do is have more surgery. After the last few months, he doesnt want to see any more doctors.
Im tired of listening to doctors, to be honest with you, he said. Its all guesswork and white coats. Im not happy right now. Can you tell? Its very frustrating.
CUTTING IT CLOSE: Fred Couples needs to pick it up. Hes got a streak to preserve.
The former champion has never missed the weekend at the Masters, sharing the record for consecutive cuts made (23) with Gary Player. But his 4-over 76 Thursday has him in a tie for 65th. The top 44 and ties'plus those within 10 strokes of the leader'make the cut.
I misclubbed a lot of shots, and they were hard shots. I didnt hit very good ones and I didnt make many putts, so when you do that, it kind of adds up to 76, which is very mediocre, Couples said.
Couples rough start was a surprise, considering he tied for fourth at the Houston Open last weekend. It was his best finish of the year, and highest since he tied for third at the 2006 Masters.
But Couples has been in this spot before at Augusta National and recovered. He shot a 78 in the first round in 1996, rebounded with a 68 the next day and wound up tying for 15th.
I hit the ball well. It wasnt like I embarrassed myself, he said. Youve got to make birdies. If I could have made a couple more birdies and hung in there, maybe I wouldnt have tried a couple shots that I put myself in horrible places by trying to get a little greedy.
GIMME AN O!: Apparently there are still a few people who havent caught on to Boo Mania.
Boo Weekleys folksy ways have made him a fan favorite'he borders on cult hero'on both sides of the Atlantic, and hes greeted with loud cheers of BOOOOOO! wherever he plays. But a few people at Augusta National were either ignorant or, to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe trying to be polite, instead calling out, Way to go, Bo.
They dont understand the last `o, I guess, Weekley said.
DIVOTS: U.S. Amateur runner-up Michael Thompson fared the best of the three amateurs in the field. Thompson, who plays at Alabama, shot a 2-over 73. Two-time winner Bernhard Langer received a one-stroke penalty because his ball moved after he addressed it on the ninth hole. He took a 2-over 6 on the hole, and finished with a 2-over 74. Only 18 players in the field of 94 broke par.

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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 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.”