Tigers Swing Changes Ready For Spotlight

By Associated PressJanuary 5, 2005, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Maui -- History indicates Tiger Woods could be in for a big year.
Competition suggests it wont be easy.
There already have been a number of parallels with the last time Woods overhauled his swing at the end of the 1997 season, after he won four times and shattered records at Augusta National as the youngest Masters champion.
He won only one PGA Tour event in 1998, just like last year.
He lost his No. 1 ranking for longer than three months'to David Duval in 1999, to Vijay Singh last year.
He had a moment on the range in May 1999 when the swing changes he made with Butch Harmon finally kicked in. Woods went on an incredible run, winning 31 times and seven out of 11 majors over the next five years.
That happened to him again in November, an epiphany when all the mechanics drilled into his head by Hank Haney all made sense. It was an 8-iron on the range at Big Canyon in California, and Woods finished off his lackluster year by winning in Japan and at his unofficial Target World Challenge.
On the eve of the 2005 season, which starts Thursday with the winners-only Mercedes Championships at Kapalua, Woods was asked if he had the same feelings as he did five years ago.
No, he said, pausing for effect. Its better.
That would suggest Woods is on the verge of something grand, although his next answer spoke volumes to the obstacles that werent around five years ago'namely, Singh, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen and others.
Can he win eight times like he did at the end of 1999? Or almost 50 percent of his tournaments and three majors like he did in 2000? Is that expecting too much?
It depends on how well I play and how well the rest of the guys play, Woods said. I can hit the ball as great as I want and make a bunch of putts, but if other guys play well and make everything, its tough to win.
From 99 to now, the margin of error has gotten even smaller to win golf tournaments. Its become more difficult.
Cuts are getting lower. Consequently, you cant have an off day where you shoot 71 or 72 anymore. An off day has to be 69.
And he has to hope'as does everyone'that Singh is having an off day.
While several top players have not failed to mention that Woods appears to be in control of his game again, the focus remains on the 41-year-old Fijian, and rightfully so.
Singh joined Woods in some exclusive company last year, becoming only the sixth player to win at least nine times in one season. He also swept all the major awards, and shattered the PGA Tour record with nearly $11 million in earnings.
And age means nothing. No one is more fit than Singh. Few work harder.
The guy had a season for the ages and took only a couple of days over the last month where he wasnt working on either his game or his conditioning. Clearly, Singh isnt ready to let go of his title as the worlds No. 1 player.
He wants to start strong on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, where 31 tour winners from last year are assembled. Mickelson is the only one missing, electing not to play.
I would really like to go out there, stake my ground and say, Im still here, Singh said.
But he knows the sharks are circling.
Els was a couple of putts away from a spectacular year'he missed putts on the 18th hole that would have gotten him into playoffs at the Masters and PGA Championship, and won the British Open. Instead, the Big Easy had to settle for five wins worldwide.
Goosen is a sleeper, but the players know how good he is. The quiet South African won his second U.S. Open title last year and ended the season by rallying past Woods in the Tour Championship.
Singh also continues to point out former Masters champion Mike Weir as someone who could be ready to rise up, while other wonder if this is the year Sergio Garcia breaks through with a major season.
Youve seen the era'Nicklaus, Palmer, Player'those guys at their best, Singh said. Youre seeing the same thing right now. Theres not just one guy dominating. Theres three, four, five guys that can win player of the year. Its going to be a great season.
Singh said late last year that he felt like he was running in an open field, far ahead of the pack, pushing himself harder so that no one could catch him. And as the No. 1 player, it all starts with him.
The pressure is on me to keep performing, he said. Thats something I have to deal with myself, not put too much pressure on myself. If I can deal with that in a good way, I think Ill be the one ahead. If I let that bother me, then Im going to lose a little bit there. Thats the only thing Ive got to worry about right now.
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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.”