Record-equaling round lifts Kerr into second in Lotte

By Associated PressApril 15, 2017, 5:26 am

KAPOLEI, Hawaii – Su-Yeon Jang heads into the final round of the Lotte Championship on Saturday playing bogey-free golf, finishing the third round with a 7-under 65 for a three-stroke lead.

The 22-year-old sponsor invite from South Korea took the lead during the completion of the rain-delayed second round Friday morning and opened a cushion Friday afternoon. She had a 17-under 199 total - two strokes off the tournament record for 72 holes - at Ko Olina Golf Club.

Cristie Kerr and Alena Sharp, the 35-year-old Canadian looking for her first LPGA Tour victory, were tied for second. Kerr had a 62 to tie Lizette Salas' tournament record in 2013. Kerr, who turns 40 this year, played the back nine in 29, with birdies on seven of her last eight holes.

''I was just kind of being myself,'' said Kerr, who had eight putts on her last eight holes. ''Yeah, everybody says being in the zone. I just kind of stayed out of my own way today, which is what I have to do to have a chance tomorrow.

''I stayed in the moment and started walking them in.''

Sharp stayed with Jang, birdie for birdie, until a bogey on the final hole left her with a 66. She was just one back after sinking a 15-footer from the fringe on the 16th.

Sharp has not won in 240 LPGA starts, but is coming off her best year. The only LPGA player with more starts without a win in this field is Becky Morgan (315). She is tied for 10th, seven shots back. Morgan's last Top 10 was in 2009.

Sharp admits ''It's hard to win out here,'' but has never wanted to stop trying.

''I just love playing golf, so I don't think about it as I need to win,'' she said. ''I just love the competition. I love traveling to all the different places we play and the amazing courses we play. I just have a lot of passion for the game itself.''

In Gee Chun, the 2015 U.S. Women's Open champ, was 12 under after a 65.

''I was able to hole some longer putts in my front nine, which is the back nine,'' said Ko, whose 14th - and last - win came in July. ''When you get to hole the putts that you don't necessarily think they're birdie range, it's always nice. It's kind of a bonus.''

Top-ranked Lydia Ko, looking for her first win since July, was tied for seventh at 9 under after a 65. She was eight strokes behind the leader, a shot behind second-ranked So Yeon Ryu (69) and two back of third-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (70).

Jang, who doesn't have a bogey this week, also played in the final group last year at Lotte and finished fifth.

Hawaii has thrown its share of surprises at this year's field. For the third day in a row there was a weather delay Friday. The wind and rain, and thunder and lightning, have made Ko Olina a tropical adventure.

When darkness halted play Thursday, Jang had two holes remaining and a share of the lead at 9 under with Ariya Jutanugarn and In-Kyung Kim. Jang birdied her 17th hole early Friday to claim the second-round lead, then had ''some real good food my dad cooked up'' before teeing off in the third round.

After the leaders played their first hole, play was halted for an hour. Jang came back with four quick birdies and added three in a row on the back nine. She needed just 25 putts.

''Because I had to finish up the second round this morning and play another 18 I was a little bit tired,'' she said through an interpreter. ''But I know I'm so far away from home and I travel so long to play this tournament, so I try to tell myself just to suck it up and have a good time and play a good round today.''

She was brilliant, and has been in nearly every round she's played at Ko Olina the last two years. The exception was last year's final round, when a 71 in the final group wasn't nearly enough to keep up with Minjee Lee.

Instead Jang, ranked 68th in the world, won twice on the Korean LPGA tour last year and finished third on the money list.

''Obviously I've gained a good amount of experience doing that,'' Jang said. ''Hopefully tomorrow I won't get too nervous. I think that experience will help me play in the rest of the round tomorrow.''

The last time a sponsor invite won on the LPGA it was Ko at the 2013 CN Canadian Women's Open. Ko turns 20 in 10 days and was born the same year Kerr debuted on the tour.

The cut came Friday morning at 1 under, with 78 golfers playing on. Michelle Wie, the 2014 Lotte champion, made the cut on the number. Lindy Duncan holed out on the 18th early Friday for eagle to make the cut.

Nicole Broch Larsen was also one of the 15 players who came back to finish their second round Friday morning. She had a hole-in-one on her 17th hole (No. 8).

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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.

Amen.

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.”

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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.