Notes US Open exemptions at stake Playoff Fever

By Associated PressMay 18, 2011, 3:58 am
PGA Tour (75x100)PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tournaments on three continents this week could go a long way toward deciding who gets in the U.S. Open. The top 50 in the world ranking published Monday are exempt from qualifying.

David Toms, who lost in a playoff at The Players Championship, went from No. 75 to No. 46 this week. He is not on the bubble, but likely safe unless a few other players behind him all have a good week at Colonial. Toms has not missed the U.S. Open since 1998.

Ryo Ishikawa, meanwhile, tied for 12th last week on the Japan Golf Tour and fell three spots to No. 53. He is playing this week in the Totoumi Hamamatsu Open, and because Japan gets far fewer world ranking points, he likely will need a top finish to avoid qualifying.

Further down the list are two names of greater significance.

Vijay Singh has the longest active streak with 67 straight appearances in the majors. He missed the cut last week in The Players and fell to No. 59 in the world. He received a special exemption from the USGA last year.

Sergio Garcia is at No. 73 and in danger of missing a major for the first time since the 1999 U.S. Open that the late Payne Stewart won at Pinehurst No. 2. It also would be the first time he had to qualify for the U.S. Open, although those are no longer his intentions.

“If I don’t qualify, then I don’t deserve to play,” Garcia said last week.

Aaron Baddeley is at No. 50, although he appears to be safe. The U.S. Open also takes the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list after next week, and Baddeley is No. 7 on the strength of his win at Riviera. If not, he’s in the right place this week – Spain.

The World Match Play Championship on the European Tour schedule is stacked with top players – five of the top six players in the world (missing only Phil Mickelson at No. 4). With only 24 players in the field, he is assured of getting some points.

Peter Hanson of Sweden tied for 19th, which moved him up four spots to No. 48, although he is not playing this week. Gary Woodland is at No. 49 and not playing at Colonial – this would be his fifth straight event – and will need to stay put to assure his spot. J.B. Holmes, who closed with a 69 at the TPC Sawgrass to tie for sixth, moved up to No. 52 and is playing Colonial.

The U.S. Open, to be played June 16-19, also will take the top 50 in the world the week before the championship begins, leaving hope for those who don’t make it.

The cutoff for top 50 to be exempt for the British Open is May 30, although it has other avenues to get in. Among them is having the highest finish at the AT&T National and John Deere Classic among those not already eligible. It also offers spots to the top two players from a special money list that starts with The Players Championship and includes five straight tournaments through the AT&T National.

YOUTHFUL MOMENT: Matteo Manassero already has won twice on the European Tour, cracked the top 50 in the world and is playing a full schedule in the major championships this year. By now, it’s understood that he’s only 18 and still doesn’t have a driver’s license.

A different perspective came Saturday during the rain delay at The Players Championship.

David Toms was on the porch of the clubhouse with his 13-year-old son Carter when Manassero came outside to look at the weather. Before long, he was caught up in conversation with Toms’ son about languages. Manassero explained it was mandatory to take English and one other language at his school, so he picked Spanish over German.

Toms watched as the guy he tries to beat on the golf course had an easier time chatting with his son than with him.

PLAYOFF FEVER: First it was Brandt Snedeker at Hilton Head, then Bubba Watson in New Orleans and Lucas Glover at Quail Hollow. Just when it seemed every PGA Tour event went to a sudden-death playoff, the streak continued Sunday at The Players Championship when K.J. Choi won with a par on the 17th hole.

Officially, it’s the first time since the end of the 2009 season that four straight PGA Tour events on the schedule went to extra holes. But that took place over a six-week stretch. This is the first time since the PGA Tour began keeping complete records in 1969 that tournaments were decided by a playoff in four successive weeks.

SUNSHINE CEO: The Sunshine Tour in South Africa is getting a new commissioner.

Just one month after Gareth Tindall announced plans for a new World Golf Championship in South Africa as early as next year – an announcement that caught the PGA Tour by surprise because there is still not a firm date or title sponsor – the Sunshine Tour announced he will be leaving at the end of June to take a job in the business world.

“Every so often in life, an opportunity comes along that one just cannot refuse,” Tindall said.

He will be replaced by Selwyn Nathan, the deputy chairman of the tour.

DIVOTS: Excluding the majors, Ian Poulter has gone 24 consecutive PGA Tour events without finishing in the top 10 against a full field. His most recent was a tie for ninth at The Barclays in 2009. … The PGA Tour picked up two more title sponsor extensions over the past few days, with Northern Trust (Riviera) renewing its deal through 2016 and FedEx agreeing to be title sponsor of the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., through 2014. … Six major champions will take part in “Ole Seve,” a pro-am of 22 teams on the West Course at Wentworth on May 23. All the proceeds will go toward the Seve Ballesteros Foundation in partnership with Cancer Research UK. Jose Maria Olazabal will serve as the host of the pro-am. … Juli Inkster and Morgan Pressel will take part in the CVS Charity Classic, the two-day exhibition after the U.S. Open hosted by Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade.

STAT OF THE WEEK: In the five years since The Players Championship moved to May, no one leading after the third round has gone on to win the tournament.

FINAL WORD: “My issues with putting really aren’t the length of the putter, it’s the length between my ears.” – Paul Goydos, on why he doesn’t use a long putter.

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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.”