Old Guard Fades New Generation Steps Up

By Associated PressApril 5, 2006, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Raymond Floyd intends to keep playing the Masters as long as his health holds out.
On Wednesday, it looked like the end was near. Every couple of shots on the practice range, Floyd bent over to touch his toes or stretch to one side, propping himself up on whatever iron he happened to be using.
Geoff Ogilvy
Australian Geoff Ogilvy is making his Masters debut this week.
'I've got a bit of a muscle pull in my rib cage,' Floyd said, shuffling off to the champions locker room after the par-3 contest. 'I'm on my way to an appointment right now to get it worked on.'
Floyd is part of the over-60 group that will be on the course this week, taking advantage of a supposedly lifetime pass that winners get along with their green jacket. But their numbers are dwindling -- down to a threesome, in fact.
The next generation has taken over.
Sixteen players will make their Masters debut on Thursday, and another 16 have less than three years experience at Augusta National. Combined, these johnny-come-latelies account for more than a third of the 90-player field -- undeniable signs of a youth movement at the venerable ol' course.
'It's time for us to pull over in the slow lane,' quipped Ben Crenshaw, a two-time winner who knows his days are numbered at the age of 54. 'If we don't pull over, they're going to run us over. I've already been run over many times.'
Three-time Masters champion Gary Player is doggedly hanging on at 70, a physical freak of nature but the oldest player in the field, far beyond his days as a competitive force at Augusta National.
Sixty-seven-year-old Charles Coody brought along his clubs for another 36 holes, but this is it. After playing the par-3 contest with two grandchildren tagging along as caddies, the 1971 Masters champion revealed that he's playing the real tournament for the final time.
Then there's Floyd, still painfully swinging away at 63 even though he knows his chances of making the cut on the super-sized course are virtually nil -- especially with that twinge in his side.
'I continue to play because of the tradition,' said Floyd, the '76 champion. 'I'm not here to be competitive. I'm here to be part of the history. I would never go over and play a regular Tour event because I'm not competitive.'
While Augusta National wallows in its history, the club has clearly taken aim at one of its most venerable traditions -- the past champion.
A few years ago, club chairman Hootie Johnson sent out those infamous letters to three former winners (Billy Casper, Doug Ford, Gay Brewer) asking them in not-so-tactful terms to give up their automatic spots in the field.
Even though Johnson hasn't used that tactic again, the message is clear: It's time to step aside if you're not showing at least a semblance of being competitive.
Arnold Palmer got the hint, playing for the final time in 2004 as he closed in on his 75th birthday. Jack Nicklaus was 65 when he followed suit after last year's Masters, saying he didn't want to play the tournament if he was only being viewed as a monument. This is the first time since 1954 that neither Palmer nor Nicklaus will play in the Masters.
Barely noticed, 69-year-old Tommy Aaron decided not to play after putting up a 17-over score in the first two rounds last year -- and that was before the course was lengthened to a staggering 7,445 yards.
After sitting out three years, Casper returned in 2005 for a farewell appearance. Seventy-three and barely able to make it around the course, he quit after shooting 106 in the opening round, which would have been the highest score in Masters history if he had bothered to turn in his scorecard.
But all of those guys were in their 60s and 70s.
With the ever-growing course -- Augusta National has expanded by 460 yards over the last five years in response to bulked-up players, juiced-up balls and high-tech equipment -- look for aging players to step aside a lot quicker than they did before.
'It's crossed my mind,' said Crenshaw, who hasn't made the cut since 1997. 'It won't be too much longer before I'm done.'
There are only four 50-something golfers in the field, Crenshaw among them. By comparison, 22 players are 30 or younger, driving down the average age to 37.3 for this year's field.
So, in this era of youth being served, will someone ever be able to pull off another 1986? Let's ask Nicklaus, who was 46 when he became the oldest winner in Masters history two decades ago.
'He'd better be pretty long to start with,' said Nicklaus, who put Tom Lehman and Fred Couples in that group.
The course conditions could push more people in the mix, especially veterans such as Bernhard Langer who know the place like their own backyard -- even with all the changes.
'As I understand it, the golf course is relatively fast,' Nicklaus said. 'If the golf course is relatively fast, it brings a lot more people into the game.'
Arron Oberholser, who will be making his Masters debut at 31, knows the value of experience at Augusta National. Pure power isn't enough.
'I have no expectations,' he said. 'I just want to have a good time and learn the golf course, because this won't be my only one.'
In years to come, as golfers such as Oberholser becomes regulars, there aren't likely to be enough old-timers to put together fan-favorite pairings such as Nicklaus-Palmer-Player or Coody-Casper-Brewer. Even if there were, Augusta National seems to be moving away from the concept, splitting up the three over-60 golfers in this year's field.
Crenshaw is OK with that. He's sees no need to have a bunch of old guys clogging up the course.
'A lot of us are perfectly happy with that,' he said. 'We've had our time. It's time to start watching these young guys.'
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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 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

    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.”