Notes Winners Back in Masters

By Associated PressApril 6, 2005, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- For years, a win on the PGA Tour meant a trip to the Masters.
That policy could be making a comeback.
Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson said Wednesday the club may reconsider its qualifying procedures, which removed the automatic invitation for tour winners beginning with the 2000 Masters.
``We will give serious consideration to the possibility of tournament winners receiving an invitation,'' Johnson said during his annual pre-Masters news conference. ``This will probably be a couple of years off.''
Eight Tour winners from the past year didn't qualify for the Masters: Joey Sindelar, Jonathan Byrd, Vaughn Taylor, Woody Austin, Bart Bryant, Brent Geiberger, Andre Stolz and Heath Slocum.
Since the change was made -- giving more weight to yearlong performance through the world rankings and PGA Tour money list -- the number of non-American players has risen dramatically.
In 1999, there were 29 foreign-born players in the 96-player field for the last Masters that included Tour winners. This year, it's 44 out of 93 -- a nearly 52 percent increase.
But Augusta National has always striven for a worldwide feel to its signature event, so there's no concern about having nearly half the field comprised of non-American players.
``The fact that international players have qualified in great numbers would not be a factor in re-evaluating our qualifications,'' Johnson said.
On a related note, Johnson conceded that broadcast ratings in Japan were a factor in the club's decisions to extend a special invitation to Shingo Katayama, who will be playing his fourth Masters in five years.
Not so for Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, whose streak of 13 straight Augusta appearances ends this year -- even though he was a star on Europe's Ryder Cup team last fall and showed his affinity for the Masters by traveling to China and Indonesia in a last-ditch attempt to qualify.
``Colin will be back in the Masters tournament one way or another, surely,'' Johnson said. But ``for a golfer like Colin to come real close, then we give him an invitation, that's not something we would want to do.''
Katayama, known for his cowboy hat and effusive personality, has 16 wins on the Japan PGA Tour. He became a bit of a cult figure in this country with his fourth-place finish at the 2001 PGA Championship.
Listening to Johnson, the Masters invitation seemed to have more to do with Katayama's homeland than his performance.
``We have a long relationship with Japan,'' Johnson said. ``They have been the most populous golfing nation for many years. We do have a big broadcast over there, and that does influence us.''
That's a change from last year, when China's Zhang Lian-Wei received a special invitation but Johnson insisted it had nothing to do with promoting the Masters in the world's most populous nation.
The ``Par-3 Jinx'' is assured of lasting another year.
Jerry Pate won the par-3 contest Wednesday at 5 under par, the highlight of an always-entertaining event that featured holes-in-one by Ben Crenshaw, Raymond Floyd and amateur Luke List.
Pate, the 1976 U.S. Open champion, took part in the event as one of the non-competing invitees to the Masters. Anyone who has won a U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship, U.S. Amateur or British Amateur can attend the Masters, play practice rounds and take part in the lighthearted tournament held on the club's nine-hole, par-3 course.
The par-3 winner has never gone on to win the Masters -- and he won't this year, either.
Crenshaw had his hole-in-one at the 70-yard second, while List aced the 115-yard seventh and Floyd knocked in his tee shot on the 135-yard ninth.
``I hit it real close, about a foot past, and it spun back in,'' Floyd said. ``It was a real nice way to finish the day.''
Crenshaw finished one stroke behind Pate.
Mr. Palmer, the Masters is holding your tee time.
For the third year in a row, the tournament will begin without an honorary starter, a position that Augusta National is holding open for four-time winner Arnold Palmer.
Palmer played in his 50th -- and final -- Masters last year. He has left open the possibility of starting the tournament with an honorary tee shot, but he's not quite ready to take on the ceremonial duties.
``We are going to hold that position until Arnold is ready to go,'' Masters chairman Hootie Johnson said Wednesday. ``I hope it won't be too long.''
Masters chairman Hootie Johnson quickly shut down any debate about Augusta National bringing in its first female member.
When a reporter tried to bring up the issue Wednesday, Johnson replied, ``We've adopted a new policy. We don't talk about club matters, period.''
The issue created a storm of controversy in 2003, when protesters led by Martha Burk converged on Augusta to demand that women be admitted as members.
Johnson refused to budge on the private club's all-male membership, even going to a commercial-free telecast so sponsors wouldn't be subject to protests or boycotts.
Burk's protest near the club drew only a few dozen people, and the Masters feels confident enough in its position to restore commercials on this year's telecast.
Tiger Woods and Ernie Els both have a chance to take the world's No. 1 ranking this week. Woods would vault to the top spot if he wins, no matter where Els and current No. 1 Vijay Singh finish. Depending on where the other two finish, Woods could reclaim the top of the rankings with a finish as low as fifth. For Els to become No. 1, the South African must win with Singh lower than tied for third and Woods lower than tied for second.
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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.”