Byrd soars to playoff win in Maui

By Doug FergusonJanuary 10, 2011, 8:51 am

Hyundai Tournament of Champions

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Jonathan Byrd won another playoff in fading sunlight, minus the heroics.

Byrd opened the PGA Tour season Sunday by closing with a 6-under 67 and winning a sudden-death playoff in the Tournament of Champions when Robert Garrigus missed a 3-foot par putt on the second extra hole.

Byrd qualified for Kapalua by making a hole-in-one in near darkness to win a three-man playoff in Las Vegas, as dramatic a finish as there was on tour last year. He won this playoff under far more different circumstances.

He nearly holed a 50-foot birdie putt on the opening hole on the Plantation Course, leaving him a tap-in par. Byrd stood off to the side of the green, waiting to go to the next hole, when Garrigus three-putted by missing a 3-foot par putt.

It gave Byrd his fifth career victory, and this came with a few perks. Byrd earned an automatic invitation to the Masters, and with his second win in the last two months, is exempt for the U.S. Open.

Graeme McDowell nearly joined them in the playoff. The U.S. Open champion, coming off a dream season, matched the Plantation Course record with an 11-under 62 and finished one shot behind. McDowell had a 10-foot birdie putt on the last hole that just missed.

Byrd and Garrigus, who missed a 12-foot eagle putt on the 18th in regulation, finished at 24-under 268.

Both had their chances.

Garrigus was always behind after a bogey on the opening hole, was never out of the hunt. He always had the 688-yard, downhill 18th waiting for him, and he again took advantage. Garrigus ripped a 5-wood that caught the grain and the slope perfectly, some 12 feet short of the hole. His eagle putt didn’t have enough speed, however, and caught the lower side of the cup.

Byrd, playing in the final group, couldn’t reach the green because of the Kona wind into his face. His wedge came up well short, and his 18-foot birdie putt for the win didn’t have a chance.

Despite the length advantage for Garrigus, Byrd had the best chance to win the first playoff hole on the 18th. His pitch stopped 10 feet short of the hole, but his second chance at birdie for the win slid by the cup.

Garrigus had a 73-yard advantage off the tee on the second extra hole, but his approach was 40 feet short, and his birdie putt to win was hit too hard, leaving him a nervy 3-footer that he missed.

“That putt was a microcosm of how I feel right now. This hole kind of got me this week,” said Garrigus, who bogeyed No. 1 in regulation and was 4-over par the five times he played it. “Hopefully, I might it back here next year.”

The tournament ended with a bizarre twist, much like the rest of the week went.

It started with two-time defending champion Geoff Ogilvy having to pull out with 12 stitches in his finger from a freak injury in the ocean. The next day, Camilo Villegas was disqualified because of a rules violation that was reported through Twitter.

“I just played solid all day,” Byrd said. “I was a little anxious, a little nervous. I didn’t play the last two holes as well as I wanted.”

Thanks to Garrigus, it didn’t matter.

Steve Stricker, tied with Byrd and Garrigus going into the final round, shot 71 and tied for fourth with Carl Pettersson (68).

McDowell started the final round six shots out of the lead, and he told one of the locker room attendants that he probably would need a 59 to have any kind of chance.

He gave it quite a ride. He ran off four straight birdies early in the round to make the turn in 30 and get within range. After scolding himself for missing an 8-foot birdie try on the 12th, McDowell responded with four straight birdies, including a 20-footer down the slope on the 15th after playing a safe pitch.

“I never looked at the leaderboard,” McDowell said. “I knew the guys were going to go low. I just kept my head down. When I birdied, 14, 14, 15, 16 … I said, ‘Hold on.”’

But with another dose of Kona wind – that’s when Kapalua is at its longest – the 17th and 18th are not easy. McDowell can’t reach the par-5 18th in two, but hit a risky pitch that flew toward the pin and checked up 8 feet short. His firm putt didn’t catch all the break, and he had to settle for par for the fourth straight round.

“It was just a fun day out there,” McDowell said. “This golf course is just ‘green light’ all day. You can see from the scoring, there’s a lot of birdies, and it’s a lot of fun.”

It wasn’t much fun for Stricker, who didn’t stay in the lead very long.

Stricker chipped poorly on the first hole and made bogey, three-putted for par on the fifth, then hit two very tentative putts on the seventh hole for another three-putt bogey that left him four shots behind.

Ian Poulter closed with a 66 to tie for sixth – he hasn’t finished worse than that in his last five tournaments. He was joined by Matt Kuchar, who shot a 69.

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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 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.”