Notes Nothing Silly About Freddies Earnings
Couples' runner-up finish at Trilogy was worth $385,000, pushing his career earnings in the Skins Game alone to $3.9 million. For those keeping score, that's more money than Arnold Palmer made in his 50 years on the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour.
Is the end near?
'I've had my run,' Couples said. 'I got lucky to be in this year. Maybe they'll let me come back next year. I don't know how many years I've been here, but it's been a long, long, long time.'
So long, in fact, that he was able to add some perspective on a silly-season event that has lost its punch.
The Skins Game began in 1983 with Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson, who combined to win 198 times on the PGA TOUR, including 42 majors.
'This is a little different group than those guys, to say the least,' Couples said.
Ames, Couples, John Daly and Fred Funk have combined to win 29 times, including three majors.
But while it was lacking in star quality, and some wish the Skins Game would go away, it still drew a larger television audience than some regular PGA TOUR events in the fall. The overnight rating for the first round on Saturday was 2.3, the same as the national rating in 2005 when Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam joined Funk and Couples.
The Sunday overnight was 1.6, compared with a national rating of 2.7 last year.
Meanwhile, the PGA TOUR is putting together the final touches on the 'challenge season' for 2007. And while there won't be any significant changes, the tour wants to make sure the silly season is structured like regular tournaments.
'They had three criteria,' said television producer Terry Jastrow, who runs the Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge. 'Did it forward the image of the PGA TOUR? Did it have a meaningful charity component? Did the players like it?'
The Target World Challenge, the bonanza of the silly season with a $5.75 million purse, is the only stroke-play event over 72 holes. It's the only one assured of getting Tiger Woods, who is the tournament host (the event benefits the Tiger Woods Learning Center).
But that doesn't guarantee big ratings.
Target last year drew a 1.6 on Saturday and Sunday, the same overnight rating as the Skins Game on Sunday.
Jerry Kelly kept shooting good scores at the wrong time.
Kelly led the PGA TOUR this year in one of the more peculiar statistics -- most tournaments with all four rounds in the 60s without winning. Kelly did it five times. He tied for 13th in the Sony Open, tied for 12th at Colonial, tied for ninth at Disney and was runner-up at Tucson and Milwaukee. He wound up 39th on the money list, although he didn't win until the Merrill Lynch Shootout, a week after the official season ended.
Right behind in the '60s and bust' category was Heath Slocum, who did it four times (Tucson, Booz Allen, John Deere and Disney).
And perhaps the strongest effort came from two-time winner Jim Furyk. He had three tournaments with all four rounds in the 60s without winning, and two of them were World Golf Championships. The other was the Buick Open. All three were won by Tiger Woods.
After two straight years in the top 10 on the PGA TOUR money list, Sergio Garcia fell to No. 49 this year, and it wasn't hard to see why. His biggest problem was Sunday.
Garcia didn't break par in the final round of a PGA TOUR event until a 69 at the Memorial.
Of the 12 cuts he made on TOUR, he broke par only three times in the final round and broke 70 just twice. His final-round scoring average was 72.9, which placed him 181st among 196 players and 4.2 shots behind Tiger Woods.
Garcia most recently was in contention Sunday two weeks ago at the Taiheiyo Masters until closing with a 77.
AUGUSTA ON HIS MIND
Brett Quigley had by far his best year on the PGA TOUR. He finished 20th on the money list with more than $2.6 million, about as much as his last three years combined.
Best of all, he finally gets to play in the Masters.
'Unbelievable,' Quigley said. 'That's pretty cool, especially going to school in South Carolina, going down to the practice rounds. To me, that's probably the best reward for playing great this year.'
Quigley played Augusta National two years ago with his father, a college friend and a member. He said it was 40 degrees with miserable conditions and 'I loved every minute of it.'
He already has a caddie lined up for the Masters -- his father, Paul, a top amateur in New England who also caddied for him at the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields in 2003 when Quigley opened with a 65.
'I think I have to, my first time there,' Quigley said. 'I think it would be an amazing thing for the both of us, something I would love to share with him.'
Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson will be partners again in the Champions Skins Game, to be played Jan. 13-14 on Maui. Other teams will be Arnold Palmer and Loren Roberts, Gary Player and Jay Haas, and defending champions Ray Floyd and Dana Quigley. ... U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy had a tough time going from the slick greens of Australia to the Bermuda greens of Poipu Bay at the Grand Slam of Golf. 'I played the Australian Open last week,' he said. 'If I hit some of those putts that hard, I would have been bouncing off the shins of the people in the crowd.' ... Shane Bertsch and Patrick Sheehan tied for the PGA TOUR lead by playing 34 tournaments this year. Sheehan will play in his 35th this week in California -- the final stage of Q-school.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Five years ago, 55 players earned at least $1 million on the PGA TOUR. This year, 59 players failed to win a tournament and still earned at least $1 million.
'There are two criteria for me to get it. One was the fact that Tiger didn't want to play.' -- Skins Game champion Stephen Ames.
Copyright 2006 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.”