This morning started out as every other one, an early morning wake up call, followed by breakfast. To no one's surprise, we were greeted with yet another envelope detailing what today's events would be, but at least this time we could see some cards.
Once we were all fed, Mark had the dubious task of reading the letter. The letter detailed that today, we would playing in teams of three based on what cards we picked. Fair enough, let's get to picking. In the end the teams were as follows: Brian, Mark, Chan. Anthony, Rick and Isaac. Ray, Mike and James. On paper, I thought these were all pretty fair teams.
Once on the course, we found out the first challenge was going to consist of three locations, where each player would pick a yardage and play out the hole. The teams' total score for all three locations would be the team score. Yardages varied from 142-220. Our team decided - or should I say Chan decided - that he was playing from the shortest location (I have my own personal theories on this) so Mark and I discussed the final two locations, 172 and 220. Mark said he felt really comfortable at the longer location cause it was a perfect 3 iron, so that made it easy for me. I was playing from 172, no problem.
First location: Chan hit a great shot to about five feet and let’s not kid ourselves, Mark and I were thrilled. The other two teams managed par and that left Chan with a putt to give us a one stroke lead. Calmly enough, Chan made the putt. One stroke lead for the good guys.
Second location: I was up first and when I hit the shot, I thought it was perfect. It carried just to the top of a mound and then trickled all the way to the bottom. At the same time, my heart sank because I had two other guys' destinies in my hands. I had to play since the other two hit the green and my chip was not an easy one. Grain into me, tight lie and of course, the pressure. I nipped the chip perfect and snuggled it up to about two feet. The other two guys made par and all I had to do was make that putt. I did and we maintained a one stroke advantage with one to play.
Final location: This was a tough location. A long shot, water down the right and immense pressure. Rick led off and tugged his shot left and into the water. That sucked, because in competition, you don't want to win by default and that ultimately was his team's end, because he was going to suffer a penalty. Ray hit his shot a little right and Mark hit it just short on the front right. Ray hit a great chip to about three feet and all there was left was to see what Mark was going to do. He snuggled his putt to about three feet. Once that putt went in, jubilation for our team. We were safe and on to the next show. Thank The Lord.
For some of you who watched the show, you could tell by my interview that I was a little irritated by Chan's continued celebrating. What you didn't see was the constant talk after the challenge about being safe, almost boisterous to a degree. That's what pissed me off. I understand that for Chan, being safe and not having to face another elimination challenge was great, but what he has to understand is there are several other players - now friends - facing another immunity challenge and possible elimination. We need to respect the pressure that they still must face. Be happy, celebrate for a few minutes, then let it go. Act like you've been in the winner's circle before.
I thought the second immunity challenge was a great one, three locations and again, a somewhat call out session. You play from three locations and if after your shot, you think you can hole your putt, then have at it, but if you think your opponent can't make his, then you make him putt it. The best thing here was watching James and the saucer shot. And boy did he pull it off. Great shot. The second location was a pretty basic bunker shot. Ray hit first, decent, but clearly not his best. Anthony followed with one that just got away from him and ran off the green. Smartly, Ray made Anthony play. He had to chip it in. He didn't. It was all tied and coming down to Mike vs. Isaac with a green side flop shot. Isaac went first. From the bench, we thought his shot was perfect, but it checked hard and left him 10 feet or so. Mike hit an awesome shot to about 3 feet and we all figured it was over. But that's why you play the game. Mike chose to putt his - as we all figured - but not without much deliberation. That surprised many of us, and we were not sure what happened, because Mike missed what we all assumed was a gimme. That meant that Ray, Mike and James were up for elimination and that also meant another top player was going home.
When it was all settled, it was Mike and Ray going at it. They were playing the par 5 16th on the Snead Course. What a great hole. The highest elevation point on the entire golf course, and man, what a view. Mike teed off first and found the fairway bunker. Ray followed with a tee ball down the right that almost found the water but held up in the hay. Ray, as strong as he is, slashed one back into play. Mike decided to lay up out of that fairway bunker. It was going to be a wedge contest. Neither hit specifically great shots. Ray hit a good shot but it trickled off the back and Mike left himself a putt. However, seeing this green, he did not get a real great look. They tied when Ray made a clutch 8 foot par save and back to the tee they went. This time Mike carried the bunker but still in the rough. I thought that put more pressure on Ray to hit a great - maybe aggressive - tee shot. He backed off, hit 3 wood and found the left fairway bunker. To everyone's amazement Ray, from 234 yards, ripped an iron out of this bunker and almost got it on the green. Talk about shifting momentum. Now the pressure was clearly on Mike. Mike responded well and hit one up the left side, about pin-high. This time, it was a chipping contest. They both hit decent chip shots. Not sure if everyone saw this on TV, but right before he putted, he shot called his putt, saying it was in. He stepped up and boom, it went in. Now the pressure was on Mike to advance the challenge to another hole. He missed and that was the end to Mike's journey on Big Break Greenbrier.
You hate to see your friends leave, but in the end, we are all here to win and every show, someone MUST go home. Mike is a great guy and I'm thrilled that I had the pleasure of meeting him and learning more about his son. He'll do great things with golf. He's a class act.
Every Putt Counts
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
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
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.”