Sometimes the Years Best Shots Get Lost in the Moment
Sometimes, they look so routine that they don't even get the courtesy of a replay. In the case of Tiger Woods at the British Open, his best were never shown on TV.
There was nothing extraordinary about his five-shot victory, a calculated performance at the Old Course that kept a small cast of challengers from catching him. Even so, Woods knew right away that Sunday at St. Andrews would be special, starting with a series of shots not many people saw.
That's because they were on the practice range.
'I hit the 100-yard sign four straight times,' Woods said in an interview last week. 'That was the start of my warmup. I hit a couple of little wedges to loosen up, then hit to the sign. Peppered it four straight times in the air, on the right zero -- not the middle zero, the right zero.'
Swing coach Hank Haney was standing behind him, quietly impressed, and offered some advice to the caddie.
'He hit that sign four times in a row -- and five out of eight,' Steve Williams said. 'Hank says to me, `The first time he gets inside 100 yards, you might want to tell him to aim away from the flag.' '
Williams laughed, just as he did that day. Turns out it wasn't a joke.
'First time I'm inside 100 yards is on No. 6,' Woods said. 'I had 98 yards to the hole. What happens? I one-hop it off the flag and it spins off the shelf.'
Woods had to scramble for par, and on the way to the next tee, Williams told him what Haney said on the range.
'I said, 'You idiot, why didn't you just tell me to aim away from the flag?' It's not that hard,' Woods said.
The next time he had under 100 yards was on No. 7.
Woods nearly holed out.
'I had to aim away from the flag there,' he said with a smile, 'because of that shelf.'
The majors this year will be remembered for signature moments, although it was tough to find one at St. Andrews. Woods' pitch on the 12th hole, which bounced up the throat to a front pin and stopped 4 feet away for birdie and a two-shot swing, was as good as any.
The other three majors had a defining shot, along with one that often gets overlooked:
Woods' chip from behind the 16th green made a U-turn at the top of the slope, trickled toward the hole, paused two full seconds on the edge of the cup for effect, and became part of Augusta National lore the moment it dropped for birdie. For all his magic, he now is best identified by that shot.
As dramatic as that was, however, Woods was prouder of two shots that were simply steady -- his 3-wood off the tee in the playoff with Chris DiMarco, and an equally pure 8-iron into 15 feet that set up his winning birdie.
'My two best golf shots of the week,' Woods said. 'You can think of 16 all you want, but if 18 doesn't happen, then it's DiMarco's -- what a great chip and a great putt he made on 18, and all those things.'
Michael Campbell was scratching out pars along the back nine as Tiger Woods was closing in. Woods certainly helped the cause with two late bogeys that gave Campbell a cushion.
But this was Pinehurst No. 2, where shots are dropped easily. Campbell delivered a knockout punch with his 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that gave him a three-shot lead.
'I think everyone will remember the 17th,' Campbell said.
Still, the Kiwi won the U.S. Open on the par-3 15th with a bunker shot that ranks among the best of the year.
He missed the green to the left, and the only thing worse than a nasty lie was the length of the shot. He had to carry it some 25 yards to a turtleback green that fell off on all sides.
'It was semi-plugged, and I had to get it up over a little lip,' Campbell said. 'If it goes 3 feet beyond the pin, it was off the green. Six feet below the pin, and it was off the green. That was the shot of the round.'
It came off perfectly, and he holed the 6-foot par putt.
'That bunker shot turned the game around,' Campbell said. 'Tiger birdied that hole (to get within two), and he had not played the 16th yet. That could have changed the whole momentum of the round.'
Phil Mickelson was up to his ankles in rough to the right of the 18th green, tied with Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn, needing to get up-and-down from some 50 feet to win his second major.
It was the kind of chip he had practiced countless times in his backyard as a boy in San Diego.
'It could have been the easiest chip, and still wouldn't have been easy,' Mickelson said. 'It was the situation that made it tough. The ball was sitting down a little bit in the grass, and I was able to go in and be aggressive with it because I had a little bit of upslope to the pin, and I didn't fear the ball would take off by the hole.'
He raised his arms before the ball settled 2 feet away for a tap-in birdie.
But while Mickelson is among the best with a wedge, the shot that might have won the PGA was his drive. Baltusrol was softer and longer, with a stiff breeze. Mickelson needed birdie to win. He needed to be in the fairway.
'The best drive he's ever hit,' caddie Jim Mackay said that afternoon.
Mickelson reached out and tapped the plaque for Jack Nicklaus, who hit the 18th green with a 1-iron to win the 1967 U.S. Open. He could not have done that from the rough.
'Ultimately, I had a chance to go at the green on 18, and almost got it up,' Mickelson said. 'But I ended up making birdie.'
That's all that mattered.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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.”
PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes
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:
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.
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.