Furyk leads Tour Championship through 36

By Doug FergusonSeptember 21, 2012, 10:23 pm

ATLANTA – Jim Furyk, the only American on the Ryder Cup team without a win this year, put himself in position Friday to join them.

Furyk made seven birdies through 10 holes at East Lake – including seven 3s to start the round – until he missed a few greens on the back nine that slowed his momentum. He wound up with a 6-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Justin Rose going into the weekend at the Tour Championship.

As for anyone questioning whether Furyk should have been a pick for the Ryder Cup?

He was more bothered by missing a 5-foot par putt on the 18th hole than what anyone thinks about his game or being in the Ryder Cup for the eighth straight time. With 16 wins, including a U.S. Open, and having qualified for every U.S. team since 1997, Furyk stopped believing he had to prove himself a long time ago.

''Look at the way I play golf - the way I swing the golf club and grip the putter,'' he said. ''Look at the way I go about my business. I don't hit the ball very far. I'm short. If I really cared what the critics thought the last 19 years, I really wouldn't be here. ... My teammates know that I'm going to give 110 percent. They know I have a lot of heart. I have a lot of grit, and that's what I'm going to do.

''But I've never felt like I have to justify myself.''

All he cares about is winning the Tour Championship, with an outside shot at the FedEx Cup title and its $10 million bonus. Furyk was at 7-under 133 on a course where he won just two years ago.

Rose, who shared the 18-hole lead with Tiger Woods, made four birdies on the back nine and holed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 68.

Woods went the other direction.

The lone bright spot was a bunker shot that was among the best he has ever hit. With a quarter of the ball below the surface of the sand from a fairway bunker on the third hole, he caught a 9-iron so perfectly that it came out low and ran across the green to 6 feet for birdie.

The rest of the day was forgettable – a muffed pitch from a bad lie on No. 8 that led to double bogey, and a series of bad swings that put him in bad positions on the back nine and led to four bogeys. He had to scramble for par on the 18th for a 73, his worst score at East Lake in 14 years, dating to a 76 in the second round in 1998.

''I didn't play very good today. Didn't hit it very good, and definitely didn't putt well,'' Woods said. ''So it was a struggle all day.''

Woods was six shots behind.

Bo Van Pelt made three bogeys on the last four holes and still had a 68 that put him two shots behind at 135, along with Masters champion Bubba Watson (66). Dustin Johnson, who had to summon his college teammate from Coastal Carolina to caddie for him when his regular had back problems, had a 67 and was another shot back, along with Georgia Tech alum Matt Kuchar (69).

The caddie was Cameron Hooper, perhaps the only caddie to ever wear topsiders and no socks. He wasn't expecting to do anything but watch. Johnson played with Garcia, who uses a CBS Sports spotter for his caddie.

Rory McIlroy, who is leading the FedEx Cup, had a 68 and was only four shots behind. He still has the best shot at the $10 million bonus, though he remains far more interested in winning his third straight tournament, and fourth in his last five starts. McIlroy was fortunate not to tumble down the leaderboard, but he scrambled for par on three of five holes at the start of his round, and made up plenty of ground with a 40-foot eagle putt on the 15th.

''I just have to try to think of my standing in this golf tournament, not really think about anything else,'' he said.

Furyk hasn't won since he turned his cap around in the rain, saved par from a bunker and won the Tour Championship in 2010, along with the FedEx Cup.

He lost in a four-man playoff at Innisbrook. He was tied for the lead at the U.S. Open with three holes to play – two of them par 5s – until he hooked his tee shot into the trees and made bogey on the 16th. And he led at Firestone from the opening round until chopping up the final hole for a double bogey to lose by one.

''I think that my personality is that I'm 75 percent mad that I haven't closed the door,'' he said. ''I have to be reminded, whether it's my teacher or my caddie or my wife or whoever it may be, that 'You're playing well. Be patient. Let it happen.' Instead of the silver lining in the cloud, I'm definitely tougher on myself than anyone else.''

Furyk was close to perfect on the front nine at East Lake.

He spent close to an hour on the practice range Thursday afternoon, mostly hitting his driver, and it paid off in the second round. East Lake can only be attacked from the fairway, and only one of Furyk's six birdie putts on the front nine was over 5 feet - that as a 15-footer on his opening hole.

''I just didn't hit enough fairways yesterday,'' Furyk said. ''I felt like my iron play was sharp, but I was playing from the rough too much and scrambling a couple times too many. So I wanted to get the ball in play. I did a good job of that, and I set myself up for a lot better iron shots, and my iron game was as good as it's been all year on the front nine. ... So you've got to feel good about it.''

He'll feel even better if he can go to Medinah next week with his 17th career win, though that don't determine how he plays.

And if anyone is questioning Furyk being a captain's pick, he wasn't sure who it was. The eight players who qualified all weighed in with their choices. So did the assistant captains, along with U.S. captain Davis Love III. For them, taking Furyk didn't seem to be a problem.

Woods certainly didn't feel that it was.

''It's not that controversial to us as players,'' Woods said. ''But to some it might be who are outside the team. ... He's been so solid and so rock steady. He's a great team player, and he's playing well. As I said, he's two swings away from being in the top five in points.''

Those two swings - a tee shot at Olympic, a 7-iron at Firestone - actually would have put Furyk at No. 1 on the Ryder Cup points list. Either way, he'll be at Medinah. For now, his focus is on two more days at East Lake.

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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.”