Experts getting closer to simplifying Rules of Golf

By Doug FergusonAugust 31, 2016, 6:25 pm

NEW YORK - For the last five years, the top rules experts in golf have come together from around the world to study a jigsaw puzzle.

That's what Thomas Pagel of the USGA refers to as the book more commonly known as the Rules of Golf.

The purpose of these private meetings essentially is to break up the puzzle and start over so the rules make more sense, without losing sight of the tradition or ethos of a game with six centuries behind it. Sessions can last at least eight hours. The singular goal is to make the rules less complicated.

It has not been easy.

''Everyone wants the game to be simple, but it's a complex game,'' Pagel, the USGA's senior director of rules, said in an interview at the Olympics. ''You have a little white ball that can and will go anywhere, and the rules try to handle all those situations. There's always going to be a level of complexity. But how can we modernize the rules so they're easier to understand and easier to apply so golfers can play confidently that they at least understand the basics?''

The group is closing in on its first draft.

Pagel declined to give a timetable, though USGA executive director Mike Davis said it could be released next year. A modern set of rules is still years away. The development was welcomed by top players who have loads of experience and still can't confidently handle a rules issue without calling an official.

''I'd be behind it 100 percent,'' Kevin Kisner said. ''The game is too slow, too hard and there's too many rules. I wouldn't know where to begin with how many rules there should be. I would think as minimal as possible. And we don't need all these dashes and a's and b's and c's. It's too confusing.''

Jordan Spieth recalls getting a Rules of Golf book at a junior tournament with instructions to keep it in his bag for quick reference.

''I never opened it,'' he said.

Neither did Dustin Johnson. He lost out on a chance to win the 2010 PGA Championship for grounding his club in sand that he didn't realize was a bunker. And he won the U.S. Open this year at Oakmont by playing the final seven holes without knowing if he would have to add one penalty stroke to his score.

He's not sure reading the book would have helped.

''The USGA sends you that rule book, but I don't think it's ever made it out from the envelope to the trash can,'' Johnson said. ''There so many rules that don't make any sense. They could make it a lot simpler and a lot better.''

If only it were that simple.

''You can't change one piece because the tentacles ... it's going to break something else,'' he said. ''It's tough to handle something in isolation. So let's look at everything, step back and take the puzzle part and see where we can make improvements.''

The result could be the most comprehensive overhaul of the rules, which in this case might shrink the book.

The first set of rules was published in 1744, but that was specific to one club. As golf grew, and the number of clubs increased, so did the rules. The Royal & Ancient took over and produced a set of rules in 1899, which the USGA adopted. The R&A and USGA issued the first joint code of rules in 1952, and there were significant changes in 1984. Not to be overlooked is the ''Decisions on the Rules of Golf,'' which amounts to a Q&A of specific incidents.

The most recent edition has 1,200 decisions.

''I don't like the size of the book, but it's one of those deals where you try to address the questions that come up,'' Pagel said. ''In the future, how can you provide guidance to committees so they can get to the correct answers without having 1,200 Q&As? And that's one of our objectives.''

The first draft will be made available to everyone, from recreational players to tour administrators to rules gurus. What will follow surely will be the largest comment period ever for the R&A and USGA. ''This is a book that impacts millions of golfers,'' Pagel said. ''They should have the opportunity to comment.''

And then it will be back to work on the puzzle.

Pagel said five years into this project ''we still haven't addressed everything.''

''But we think we can do it more efficiently, perhaps change some outcomes, make them more reasonable and overall simplify the way the rules are written and look at how the rules are delivered,'' he said. ''It's still going to look like golf, feel like golf, still have the challenge of golf. We're going to make it easier for golfers to play by the rules and feel comfortable playing by the rules.

''Golfers want to play by the rules,'' he said. ''They just find it challenging at times for the book to allow them to do that.''

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title


Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open


Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59


Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63


Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut


Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club


Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth


The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ


Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year


And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win


Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.