Fowler in 5-way tie for morning Wells Fargo lead

By Doug FergusonMay 3, 2012, 7:35 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rickie Fowler is starting to hear chatter about why he hasn't won on the PGA Tour. He hopes it won't be long before he no longer has to listen.

One week after he gave himself a chance in New Orleans, Fowler played a clean round of 6-under 66 on Thursday and was part of a five-way tie for the lead among early starters at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Fowler played with such control that he never came close to a bogey. His longest par putt was 4 feet.

''I feel that I'm good enough to win,'' Fowler said. ''I definitely feel like the amount of people expecting or thinking that I can win is a compliment. I'm not too worried about the talk that goes on about when my first win is coming, but it's my main goal, and that's what I'm focused on.''

Fowler was joined at 66 by John Senden, Brian Davis, D.A. Points and Patrick Reed, who earn a spot through Monday qualifying for the second straight tournament. He tied for 24th last week in New Orleans. Nearly one third of the morning wave broke 70.

Phil Mickelson was trying to edge closer to the morning leaders until he hit a tee shot out-of-bounds on the fourth hole and made triple bogey. He recovered for a 71. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy played in the afternoon under scorching temperatures at Quail Hollow.

Fowler has been a marketing machine since he turned pro in the fall of 2009 and lost in a three-man playoff during the Fall Series. He has had a few good chances to win, such as the Phoenix Open in 2010 and the AT&T National last year. He did well enough to make the Ryder Cup team as the last of four captain's picks in 2010, and he showed his promise on the last day by winning the last four holes to earn a halve.

He just doesn't have a trophy – at least not on his home tour.

Fowler won the Korea Open last year over McIlroy, and he hopes it will lead to bigger things. And he was motivated last month when he watched good friend Bubba Watson pull off a spectacular shot out of the woods to win the Masters in a playoff.

Fowler didn't just watch, he was there. He joined Ben Crane and Aaron Baddeley on the course, and they were among the first on the green to share in an emotional moment for Watson.

''I might have been more nervous than he was there,'' Fowler said. ''It was a lot of fun to be there. Obviously, being one of my best buddies ... and having Ben and Badds there as well, just kind of getting to see kind of the moments from outside the ropes and see what was going on coming down the stretch, I definitely took a lot away from it.

''More the feeling that I want to be in that position. Instead of Bubba winning, I want to win. Maybe he'll let me win one soon.''

Watson isn't at Quail Hollow, which doesn't make the week any easier.

The tournament attracted another strong field on a Quail Hollow course rated among the best on the PGA Tour schedule. Without much wind, and with warm weather in the morning, it yielded plenty of low scores.

That's not to say everyone played great, even if they were happy with their scores.

Fowler had a birdie putt on every hole except the par-4 ninth, when he came up just short and chipped to 2 feet. Davis, the Englishman who has never won on tour, hit only six fairways and 11 greens, yet he wound up with the same score.

''I absolutely hit it awful tee-to-green. It was just terrible,'' Davis said. ''I got away with everything. I chipped and putted like hell today, and things go your way. Things like that can make a difference. We'll go to the range this afternoon and try and iron out a few flaws in our swing, but obviously delighted to get in at 66 and build on that momentum.''

The surprise in the group was Reed, a 21-year-old who helped lead Augusta State to another NCAA title last summer. He was trying to Monday qualify for the Texas Open when he was told in the middle of his round he had received an exemption. Then, it was off to New Orleans to Monday qualifying and he moved up the leaderboard with five birdies on the back nine. He made it through yet another qualifier and landed atop the leaderboard.

''This round was all because of the confidence I've had for the past month that's gone on,'' Reed said.

He felt so good that he attacked with driver on just about every hole, leaving him shorter irons into the greens and plenty of birdie chances.

''Whenever you can do that, you feel a lot more confident,'' he said. ''Next thing you know, 6 under and tied for the lead.''

But it's just one round, a long way from winning. Fowler can attest to that as he enters his third full season.

And there was no guarantee it would be enough to stay in the lead. Ryan Moore already was at 5 under with six holes remaining, while Webb Simpson chipped in for eagle on the short par-4 eighth hole and was 5 under.

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 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.”