Stories Galore in Final Chapter

By Brian HewittNovember 10, 2008, 5:00 pm
There were more compelling story lines at the PGA Tours season-ending event than there were buses at Disney World, the theme park that hosted the Childrens Miracle Network Classic.
To wit, there was:
  • Davis Love III looking for his 20th Tour win and, perhaps a Comeback Player of the Year award, which could propel him to a berth on captain Fred Couples 2009 Presidents Cup team.
  • Jeff Overton, who underwent an emergency appendectomy late last month, trying to protect his No. 125 spot on the money list and secure his playing privileges for 2009.
  • Erik Compton, who underwent his second heart transplant ' just last May ' making the cut and trying to move up the leaderboard Sunday in the Land of the Mouse as he prepares for the grueling pressure cooker of Q-Schools second stage this week in nearby Brooksville, Fla.
  • Big Break alum Tommy Two Gloves Gainey, No. 228 on the money list, charging up that same leaderboard Sunday hunting an upset victory that would make him exempt on Tour through 2010 and an instant media darling.
    Just to name a few.
    And, actually, the one that caught my attention was Scott Verplank. Putting like the player that built a 4-1-0 record in Ryder Cup play, the 44-year-old Verplank cruised to a three-shot lead after 36 holes on the strength of a pair of opening 64s.
    A lot of people thought Verplank should have been one of U.S. captain Paul Azingers four discretionary picks for the team that would go on to thrash the Euros at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky earlier this year. But when I caught up to Verplank at Disney, he was having none of it.
    I would have liked to have been on that team, he said. And if I had putted better this year, I would have been on that team. No excuses.
    Interestingly, Verplank said his improved putting at Disney was a direct result of work he has been doing with one of his best friends, Bob Tway. Tway, who once won a PGA Championship, is leading the PGA Tour in putts per greens in regulation this year at the advanced age of 49. Verplank entered the week ranked an uncharacteristically low 72nd in the same category.
    Hes very analytical, Verplank said of Tway. And hes going to kick a lot of Champions Tour tail when he gets out there next year.
    Verplank burst onto golfs big stage way back in 1985 when he won the Western Open as an amateur at the difficult Butler National near Chicago. Verplank was the hot kid at the time. His future appeared limitless. But injuries and the burden of being a diabetic slowed his progress.
    Sunday at Disney Verplank began the day tied for the lead with Steve Marino, who cant help but remind you of a young Mark Calcavecchia, and found himself in the last grouping of the day with Marino and Love. He dropped three shots off the lead because he made the turn in a bloated 2-over 38. Birdies on 10 and 11 only matched the scores posted on those holes by both Marino and Love.
    The 2009 version of Scott Verplank is a little flintier than the confident kid who wowed everybody at the Western 23 years ago. But you will rarely hear him complain about all the physical setbacks he has had to fight through. And when his putter is right, he is positively fearless.
    Verplank birdied 12 and 13 to pull within two shots of Loves lead. But thats when DL III turned on the after-burners, finishing at 25 under after a second consecutive 64. He is now exempt for life on the PGA Tour because of his 20 wins.
    Gaineys matching final-round 64 shot him all the way up to sole second-place money and left him No. 148 in final money. That gets him conditional status on the Tour next year and entry into approximately 20 events.
    Overtons Sunday 69 produced a tie for 21st and moved him all the way up to No. 118 on the money list. Erik Comptons final round 72 earned a tie for 60th. He said he will seek an equipment guy to bend his irons more upright and lighten the weight in his driver before the 72 holes of second stage Q-School that begin Wednesday.
    Verplank and Marino tied for third, Marino bogeying two of his last six and Verplank bogeying No. 17 after missing a 5-footer on 14 that would have been his fifth straight birdie. The Fall Series is over now. Scott Verplank, and a lot of others will take time off.
    Verplank wound up a comfortable No. 77 on the money list. And the opinion here is he hasnt finished kicking some regular Tour tail.
    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.”