Haas leads with Mickelson and Woods in hunt

By Doug FergusonJanuary 29, 2011, 4:45 am
Farmers Insurance OpenSAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson generate a little more excitement at just about any tournament they play, and it doesn’t hurt when they’re both in contention going into the weekend.

It gets even better at Torrey Pines.

The Farmers Insurance Open has served up a leaderboard that could not have come at a better time for the PGA Tour – its first weekend of network television coverage, and golf won’t be competing against any NFL playoff games.

Bill Haas shot a 6-under 66 on the South Course to take a two-shot lead Friday over Anthony Kim, an explosive young American who seems torn between being like Woods on the course and John Daly off the course.

Behind them is no shortage of star power.

Mickelson closed with back-to-back birdies to turn an ordinary round into a decent one, giving him a 3-under 69 on the North Course. That put him three shots behind, along with three of his Ryder Cup teammates – Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler – and defending champion Ben Crane. Also three shots behind is Daly.

Yes, that John Daly.

Never mind that Daly’s last win anywhere in the world was seven years ago at Torrey Pines, when he got up-and-down from 100 feet away in a bunker for a playoff victory. He put together rounds of 67-69, enough to make some wonder if he has any magic left.

“With me, you don’t know what to expect,” Daly said. “I just like the way I’m hitting the golf ball.”

And then there’s Woods, who hasn’t lost a tournament at Torrey Pines since the year Daly won. He was right in the mix after four straight birdies until he lost momentum with a par at the turn, then lost strokes by twice taking two shots to get out of a bunker. About the only thing that saved him were the final three holes.

Woods, who was eight shots behind at one point, hit a 5-iron to 12 feet for birdie on the 16th. From a plugged lie in the face of a bunker on the 17th, he blasted out to 20 feet and made the bending par putt. He finished with a 5-wood from 248 yards that had him crouching with hope that it would clear the water, then waving to a massive crowd when it did.

The two-putt birdie gave him another 69, and while he remained five shots back, only 11 players were ahead of him.

“It’s a round that easily could have slipped away,” he said.

Instead, it set the stage for a weekend on CBS Sports that could turn out to be quite a show. That much was evident in the final hour, as the gallery swelled under the brilliant sunshine and endless views of the Pacific. The fans crammed in around the 16th green, and they lined both sides of the 18th fairway as Woods finished his round.

When it was over, traffic on Interstate 5 leaving Torrey Pines was even more brutal than usual for a Friday afternoon.

No wonder this is one of the most coveted dates on the West Coast for PGA Tour events. It’s where Woods usually makes his debut, where Mickelson always plays – and in this case, where just about anyone can win.

Sixteen players were separated by five shots going into the weekend, which includes Dustin Johnson and Jhonattan Vegas, the rookie from Venezuela who is coming off a playoff win last week in the Bob Hope Classic.

Vegas said earlier this week he had never met Woods, with whom he will be playing Saturday. Woods recalls meeting him at Isleworth during a college tournament last year when Vegas’ brother was playing. So the world No. 3 must not have made much of an impression.

Daly, of course, is impossible to ignore.

He is more than 100 pounds lighter since that last win at Torrey Pines, and his clothing is so bright and loud that even the blimp can pick him up on the course without having to zoom in.

His game is worth some attention, at least through two days.

“When you’re hitting the ball solid, it’s easier to figure out what you’re doing wrong,” Daly said. “As long as I keep doing that, just go out and make a few putts, there’s no telling what might happen.”

Haas ran off four birdies around the turn, and only a late bogey kept his lead from being any larger. The son of Jay Haas, who won at Torrey Pines in 1978, he was a can’t-miss kid out of Wake Forest who didn’t turn any heads until recently. Haas won the Bob Hope Classic and Viking Classic a year ago, giving him more wins in 2010 than Woods and Mickelson combined.

He was at 11-under 133, and coming off a playoff loss a week ago at the Hope. So he’s doing something right.

“A nice 36 (holes) on the weekend could turn this into a great week,” Haas said.

Kim played alongside Woods and birdied his opening four holes. He was tied for the lead after a tap-in birdie at the 10th, but bogeyed the next hole and finished with seven pars, including a three-putt on the 18th.

“I’m really close,” Kim said. “I know I’ve said it a million times. I’m not going to say it again. I’ve just got to make a couple of birdies and see what happens.”

Mickelson did his work on what used to be the pitch-and-putt North, where the rough is deeper than ever and the fairways are narrow and at times extremely difficult to hit. Lefty missed several chances until the end of his round.

“To make those last two felt good, and I’m looking forward to the weekend,” he said.

Making it better was the sight of his wife, Amy, mingling in the gallery for the first time since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2009. She basked in glorious sunshine as she walked with a group of friends and couldn’t go more than 100 yards without some spectator approaching to wish her well.

“It’s been a lot of fun having Amy out here this week,” Mickelson said. “She just looks terrific. After a year and a half, we’re in such a better place, and it’s been a lot of fun having her out here.”

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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.”