Westwood back in Memphis to defend title

By Associated PressJune 8, 2011, 8:21 pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Lee Westwood enjoys defending titles. So with the St. Jude Classic scheduled just before the U.S. Open, returning to the TPC Southwind course was a pretty easy decision.

“This was one of the first ones that went in,” Westwood said Wednesday. “It’s a priority for me to try to come and defend whenever I can, and I like to play the week before a major championship. I was fairly sure I was going to use this as one of my three invites.”

Westwood is limited each year on the number of PGA events he can play since the Englishman gave up his U.S. membership in 2008. But he said he’s only missed one chance to defend a title in about 35 opportunities, and that happened only because two tournaments were scheduled the same week.

So I’ve always tried to get back,” Westwood said.

He also likes the 7,239-yard, par-70 course as a tuneup for the U.S. Open. Count Westwood among those who like the mental tuneup of having to sink 3-foot putts. While the TPC Southwind course is different from Congressional, Westwood calls it a demanding test.

“It certainly demands that you hit the fairways and hit the greens, which is pretty much the blueprint for playing good U.S. Open golf as well,” Westwood said.

Nobody has successfully defended a PGA Tour title yet this year, Westwood will face a field featuring five of the world’s top 32 in Robert Karlsson, David Toms, Retief Goosen, Geoff Ogilvy and Zach Johnson.

Toms could be a big threat, having won here in 2003 and 2004. He also won Colonial late last month and was second at The Players and ranks second in greens in regulation and third in driving accuracy.

“I look forward to the challenge,” Toms said. “It’ll be tough to win this golf tournament with all the good players, and I’ve just got to go out there and play well and see how that stacks up.”

The field also includes Sergio Garcia, past champion Brian Gay, Padraig Harrington and Brandt Snedeker, who won The Heritage in April. Local favorite John Daly is here again too.

Considering the luck he had here a year ago, no wonder Westwood was determined to return.

Westwood had signed his card and was ready to leave a year ago when advised to stick around. Robert Garrigus blew a three-stroke lead on the 72nd hole, and Westwood won his second PGA Tour title in a three-way playoff in what he called an amazing finish.

“Sometimes you don’t win tournaments you think you should have won, and sometimes you win tournaments that some other guy should have won,” Westwood said. “If you put yourself in the position often enough, that’s going to happen.”

Westwood went on to take the No. 1 ranking away from Tiger Woods, though he now ranks second to Luke Donald after losing a playoff in the European Tour’s PGA Championship. Westwood finished tied for 11th at The Masters and also has won the Indonesian Masters in April and in South Korea this year.

Garrigus responded well after melting down on the par-4 No. 18. He drove into the water and hit his third shot into the trees left that forced him to pitch out. He walked off the green with a triple-bogey 7 back to the 18th tee for a playoff with Westwood and Karlsson. He bogeyed the first hole to finish the collapse.

He credited Chris DiMarco among others with reminding him how hard he worked to get the lead. Then he went against all advice to avoid watching TV.

“Everybody was telling me not to watch The Golf Channel and not to watch PTI and all that stuff, but I watched it giggling because I knew I was going to win again and it was just a matter of time,” Garrigus said.

He finished 2010 by winning the tour’s final event at Disney, and he opened this year losing a playoff to Jonathan Byrd in the Tournament of Champions. Now he’s back at a course where he feels very comfortable, especially in targeting holes on the greens with his ability to spin the ball with his middle irons.

Garrigus has been grouped with Westwood and Karlsson for the first two rounds starting Thursday, which he expected. He’s busy dealing with what he called mixed emotions feeling like he’s the defending champ and not Westwood.

But he knows how he’ll feel when he reaches the 18th tee.

“I’m not going to screw it up this time. I know what to do and where to hit it and in what situation, and last year helped my career leaps and bounds even though I lost in the playoff and made 7 on the last hole,” Garrigus said.

Golfers will have to deal with sizzling heat too with temperatures expected to hit the mid-90s. Mix in the humidity, and Garrigus predicted he’ll need to drink 15 bottles of water a day alone to stay hydrated.

Both Westwood and Karlsson compared playing in Memphis to the conditions in Indonesia and Malaysia.

“That’s part of playing this event,” Karlsson said. “You just have to take it and prepare as well as you can and make sure you stay hydrated and not get too caught up in outside conditions.”

Divots: Denver quarterback Tim Tebow played in Wednesday’s pro-am with former coach Urban Meyer, and he drew a bigger crowd warming up on the practice range than Westwood did as he headed to the putting green. … Vijay Singh’s withdrawal allowed Michael Letzig into the field. D.A. Points, Ricky Barnes and Jose Marie Olazabal also withdrew.

 

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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.

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.”