Appleby takes the lead in Honolulu

By Doug FergusonJanuary 15, 2011, 8:38 am

2007 Sony OpenHONOLULU – Stuart Appleby knows as well as anyone that winning can happen when you least expect it.

He was playing his 11th straight week without so much as a top 10 last year when he shot 59 in the final round to win The Greenbrier. He was playing so poorly in the Australian Masters that he didn’t think he would even make the cut. He shot 65 the last day to win.

“Good form is what you need to have, ultimately, throughout a career,” he said Friday. “But wins can come from the strangest places. That’s the exciting part of the game.”

How about from a hotel balcony?

Appleby was on the practice range for about 20 minutes Wednesday at the Sony Open before rain chased him indoors and washed out the pro-am. The next day, the opening round was called off because of a water-logged Waialae Country Club. There was nowhere to play, so Appleby went out to his balcony for 20 minutes to swing his sand wedge.

“Just sat there with a glove on and hit – well, imaginary balls – and working on my technique and getting a feel for it,” he said. “That was really my whole practice right there. And I walked about 20 feet back in the door, back into my room.”

It paid off when the first round finally got under way, even if it took some time.

He had no bogeys on his card, yet only one birdie, when he chipped in from in front of the 12th green. He then made a 10-foot birdie on the 13th, the toughest hole on the course. A good round got even better when Appleby holed out from 163 yards with a 5-iron on the 16th hole, and rammed in a 35-foot birdie putt on the 17th.

He finished with a 6-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over nine players, ranging from Matt Kuchar and Justin Rose to a pair of PGA Tour rookies in Nate Smith and Ben Martin.

The conditions were so soft, and with only a moderate breeze, that 65 players in the 144-man field managed to break par. The Sony Open is the first full-field event of the year, although it wasn’t quite big enough for Richard S. Johnson. He tried to Monday qualify, moved up the alternate list as the week went on and was the first alternate in the morning.

What were his chances as the No. 1 alternate? “Better than No. 2,” he said.

Alas, he left Hawaii without a chance to attack the course, as so many did.

Appleby shot a 30 on the back nine for his best start in 10 years at the Sony Open. Steve Marino also had a 30 on the back nine, with birdies on four of the last five holes to join the group at 65.

Appleby is among 23 players at Waialae who played the Tournament of Champions last week on Maui, so he had a chance to shake off some rust, what little was left from playing back home.

Kuchar and Rose also were at Kapalua.

“I definitely think the guys that played on Maui have an advantage,” Kuchar said. “You never know how you’re going to do, and just by practicing and hitting balls at home, it’s different than actually grinding out 3- and 4-footers that actually mean something. And particularly with the rain delay, I think we’re a little bit fresher.”

So how to explain Martin?

Fresh out of Clemson, after breezing through Q-school, he played a practice round Monday at Waialae. Martin had a photo shoot with one of his sponsors Tuesday, and never got to the course Wednesday because of the rain. Ditto for Thursday.

“I hadn’t hit a golf shot in three days,” he said.

He hit most of them quite well in the opening round. Five of his birdies were from inside 8 feet, and two others came on the par 5s that he reached in two. It helped to have experience on the bag. Martin sent his caddie to California to study the four courses used in the Bob Hope Classic, and he used Frank Williams, the longtime caddie for Stewart Cink, who was coming to Hawaii on vacation.

Rose opened with a 75 last week and played well from there, finishing in a tie for 12th.

“I didn’t panic, just really realized that it was a good week to knock off some rust and start growing some good habits,” he said. “And the week kind of evolved and I got better every day. It was nice to carry that on into this week.”

This week figures to be different. Because an entire round was washed out, the plan is to play the second round on Saturday, followed by a 36-hole marathon Sunday.

Some players did well to rally. Vijay Singh, playing for only the second time in the last four months, was 4 over through six holes. He birdied four of his last six for a 70. And then there was Charles Warren, who got into the Sony Open through his top-10 finish at Disney in the final tournament of the year. Warren birdied his last hole at Disney, which not only put him in Honolulu to start the year, but got him inside the top 150 on the money list to give him at least conditional status.

He promptly made three straight bogeys to start his season and was 4 over through six holes. It took him until the eighth to take honors from 67-year-old Dave Eichelberger, playing as local club pro for winning the Aloha Section. But Warren turned it around by playing 5 under over his last 10 holes for a 69. Eichelberger had a 76.

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 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.”