Nice guys, big mistakes: Answering oft-asked questions

By Brandel ChambleeJune 8, 2016, 3:20 pm

In the hundreds of pro-ams I’ve played in during my days as a Tour player and television commentator I believe I’ve seen every bad shot and bizarre occurrence imaginable. From Darius Rucker’s over-the-top, topped 3-wood that popped 20 feet straight up in the air and then backed up 20 yards when it hit the ground, to a man whose tee shot somehow managed to hit his left forearm (!!), without having hit anything other than the face of his club.

Almost without exception, the amateurs have been apologetic and quite sure I’ve never seen anything so appalling as their golf – even after I assure them that I have, to set them at ease and because it happens to be true. Besides the array of bad shots I’ve seen and great company I’ve enjoyed in those pro-ams, there is another common thread amongst these amateurs: the never-ending fascination with the life of a Tour player and behind-the-scenes TV, causing them to ask a lot of the same questions week in and week out. So on the odd chance that I have not played in a pro-am with you or that we don’t run into each other somewhere in an airport, here are the answers to the most often asked questions I’ve had over the years.

Who is the nicest guy on Tour?

When I played, it was toss-up between Dan Forsman, who was Sean Connery cool and Jimmy Buffet laid-back, and Joey Sindelar, who was incapable of anything but the most gracious behavior. In the TV world that I now inhabit – where we the media ask so much of the players – and social media, the Niagara of undiluted criticism, invites a hell’s stew of haters into their lives – Jason Day, Martin Kaymer, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott and Lee Westwood pass every test with an enviable civility.

What is your favorite Tour event?

This is a lot like picking your favorite Instagram filter; in varying degrees they are all good, but you have to choose one, so for me it was the L.A. Open, as it was originally known. It is my favorite event for two reasons: Riviera Country Club and Rudy Durand.

Riviera is an old George Thomas design that for some reason stirred my imagination and on a few occasions brought out the best in me.

Rudy Durand is a Hollywood producer, writer, dealmaker and philanthropist, whom I met on a pilgrimage to Riviera in 1983. He moves in and out of the tightest circles in Tinseltown, but never plays favorites, once telling an athletic star of almost unimaginable popularity to get out of his cart and leave his course, because the star told a little kid he’d sign his autograph “later,” meaning on the odd chance the kid just happened to be in the right place at the right time, five hours later. Rudy looked at the star and said “You piece of s---, when do you think you’ll ever see that little kid again? Take two seconds and sign that autograph or get out of my cart and leave the club.” The star signed the kid’s hat.

In that cellphone zombie wonderland full of ethical and existential hurdles, Rudy holds spellbound all who are lucky enough to call him a friend, with fiercely loyal rhetoric and an original take on every business deal that has gone down in that town over the last 50 years, including a lawsuit he brought against Warner Brothers. Rudy, with no legal training, represented himself against a team of $500-an-hour lawyers, took his case all the way to the California Supreme Court and won. On the tape of the trial you can hear the lead lawyer for Warner Brothers becoming so unnerved by the questions from the judge that he got sick on the courtroom floor.

Rudy’s common refrain when holding court with current or would-be Presidents, mega movie stars or the waiter who stops at the table, is that “Friendship is serious business,” and so when I find myself in L.A., I always find myself involved in the serious business of friendship with one of the greatest friends any man could have, Rudy Durand.

Brandel Chamblee at this year's WGC-Dell Match Play bracket reveal show (Getty Images)

Have you ever played with Tiger Woods?

Yes, twice, both times in 1998 and it was the most fun I ever had while being made to feel as if I had no business doing what I was doing for a living. He was a walking virtuoso, even in that year when he was supposedly in a slump. He hit it as far as he wanted, as high or as low as he needed and in any shape the hole called for. He did things no one had ever done before and stretched the limits of what we now imagine as possible, just as the bard Shakespeare did in another art. But 400 years later, nobody has come close to writing anything like Hamlet; centuries from now Tiger’s golf will still be the apex of achievement in our sport. I was grateful to have seen it up close, twice.

What is the best shot you ever hit?

One year I was playing the Northern Trust Open (I told you Riviera brought out the best in me) and I needed a birdie to make the cut. I was playing the long par-4 ninth hole with a narrow, deep bunker on the left side of the fairway about 270 yards off the tee, which is exactly where my tee shot ended up. I had a steep bank to get over and about 180 yards to the hole, which was cut in the back left of the green. I needed the loft of at least an 8-iron to get over the lip but the distance of a 5-iron to get to the green as the shot played all uphill. After chewing on the dilemma for a bit I thought if I could somehow blade a 6-iron, with all my weight on my back foot, it might just get over the lip and make the green. It was a one-in-a-thousand shot that I had never tried in my life but I didn’t have anything to lose, so I set up with the ball well forward in my stance and my weight back and swung as hard as I could. I absolutely spit-roasted the shot and it landed in the middle of the green, whereupon I promptly made the 30-foot putt to make the cut on the number. Making that shot even sweeter was the fact that on the weekend I shot rounds of 67 and 69 to finish 15th and made $40,000.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made on air?

It is a rare show that I don’t feel like something I did could have gone better, either in phrasing or in demonstrating a point with a video or graphic. Each breakdown is like a two-minute movie, and specific words have to be used to get to a graphic or to cue a video. The words matter as much as the timing. Everybody, in front of and behind the camera, is working to get it right but sometimes no matter how good the support is, you get the words wrong.

In Las Vegas one year, all the players were wearing pink ribbons on their hats for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it was my job, as the director was slowly zooming in on the hat of one player, to talk about the significance of the pink ribbon. Which I did perfectly until it came time to give the name of the cause, which I said was Breast Awareness Month. “Cancer” was a fairly important word to leave out in that title, and unaware I had done so, I had no idea why I was hearing uproarious laughter and corrections in my ear from the production truck.

Do you still get nervous?

Before every show, I remind myself to have fun, but we are all just seconds away from saying something stupid.

Will Tiger break Jack Nicklaus’ record?

Most legendary sports comebacks happen over the course of a few minutes. When it seems all hope is lost, an individual or a team somehow does the unthinkable or even what seemed impossible, and stuns the world. Americans can beat the Russians in Olympic hockey, or in golf, they can overcome, but also lose, a four-point margin on a Ryder Cup singles Sunday.

In the course of a game or a match, anything truly is possible. But for Tiger to beat Jack’s record, at a minimum, he needs five years, to say nothing of the fact that he needs to repair his body, his swing and his mind, and do all of this at an age that has been historically cruel to golfers. For Tiger to beat Jack’s record his career would have to be snatched from the flames. Add to that the newly stated fact from Tiger that breaking Jack’s record never really was his goal, and more than what he is physically capable of doing, it seems he’s not mentally interested in pursuing it.

If Tiger does go on to break Jack’s record, however, one thing is for sure: It will go down as the greatest comeback in the history of sports, not just golf. 

Getty Images

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 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.”