Mailbag Ryder Cup Debate Continues

By Brian HewittSeptember 27, 2004, 4:00 pm
Before we move onto the the subject of the zone in which Vijay Singh now lives and before we tackle the topic of how much of an underdog the Americans will be on their own soil late next year against an International Presidents Cup team that will pick from players with names like Singh, Els, Goosen, Weir, Appleby, Maruyama, Scott, Franco and others, lets close the books for now on the 35th Ryder Cup.
It was a debacle for the U.S. And the readers are still writing. So many suggestions. Here are a few along with appropriate reaction:
Reader: How about you guys giving credit to the Euros for outplaying the Americans??? How about the fact that the American tour is way, way overrated? Why all the excuses? Why all the analysis? Did an overtaxed Hal Sutton make bad choices? This was a match play event which is not really reflected in the rankings or the points. We should have more match play tournaments, maybe convert the PGA to a match play format.
Hewitt Comment: ABC Sports pioneer Roone Arledge is spinning in his grave.
Reader: It is not unlike the way the English always believed that they had the best national soccer team in the world only to inevitably be beaten by some lesser nation and instantly start campaigning to fire the manager but at least in their case they had actually invented the game!
Comment: America has won more Ryder Cups than World Cups. Thankfully.
Reader: My Big Theory--The PGA should stop conducting Ryder Cups at U.S. Open Venues. The players have a mind set that pars win on those courses. They do--in U.S. Opens. They do not in Fourballs. They can in Foursomes--sometimes.
Comment: Luke Donald is a terrific par maker.
Reader: Have you noticed there is no 'i' in Europe and their players exhibited their tremendous team play with incredible efficiency. To develop a sense of team play, perhaps we can lobby for a name change and drop the 'i' in America. How about 'Ameraca'? or 'Uncle Sam's Men'? or 'a-mer-E-an'?
Comment: There is, however, an i in win.
Reader: Any two-year system of ranking any sport is INSANE. Our Cup teams should go right off the world ranking which should be a sliding scale going back one year with a decreasing multiplier so that the last tournament gave full points, gradually reducing to only 5% of points from a year ago. And major points should only be about 30% more than regular tournaments. Not only do we not field our best team when the cup actually happens, the world rankings erroneously give us the added pressure. Add on the media whose number one agenda is reporting train wrecks, looming over their shoulders constantly, so our guys get so beaten down they withdraw in all ways for weeks following the cup. Let's close this paragraph with more insanity: They have to choose afternoon teams during the morning matches! What an unbelievably bad joke.
Comment: Langer didnt seem to mind.
Reader: I commend you on your analogy that the Americans 'look forward' to the Ryder Cup but the Euros 'live' for the Ryder Cup. Nothing could be closer to the truth than that. The Euros are constantly bringing up new, young talent. Nurturing them, teaching them, exposing them to the pressure cooker that is Ryder Cup play. The Americans on the other hand, keep resting our hopes and dreams on the 'old war horses'. We keep saying, 'he's battle tested', 'he lives for these moments', 'yeah he's older but remember when he... There is far too much of that going on. We need to get some younger talent fired up about these matches. The only fire you ever see from Tiger is during the singles matches.
Comment: Oakland Hills was Tiger Woods fourth Ryder Cup. He has been the youngest player on the American team all four times.
Reader: Can you imagine Chris Riley telling Ben Hogan that he was too emotionally tired to play the afternoon match? The American team is just too soft and it appeared to me that some of them did not care about playing for their country. The next Ryder Cup captain needs to be Bobby Knight. Then we would see who wants to play and who doesn't. No one would tell Bobby Knight that he was not going to practice with the team or that he was too tired to play 36 holes.
Comment: The best part about Bobby Knight coaching the U.S. Ryder Cup squad is Charles Barkley wouldnt be a Captains pick.
Reader: I think that coach Sutton had the right idea but, players like Woods, Mickelson, Haas, DiMarco, Toms and Love don't need a college football coach mentality to inspire them to play well. Pride for their country and the belief in their own abilities should be motivation enough.
Comment: Guess that leaves out Lou HoltzBy the way, Sutton talked for two years about heart and pride. So much so that I thought his Captains picks were going to be Dudley Hart and Dicky Pride.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
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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 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.”