A Korean influence at PGA Tour opener

By Doug FergusonJanuary 7, 2010, 6:25 pm
SBS Championship

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Y.E. Yang referred to it as a miracle – and he wasn’t talking about his PGA Championship victory over Tiger Woods.

Instead, he was surprised to hear in May that Seoul Broadcasting System had signed up to sponsor the season-opening tournament at Kapalua, the first time a South Korean company had agreed to sponsor a PGA Tour event.

“I have been wondering when a Korean company would be sponsoring a PGA event,” Yang said Wednesday through his interpreter. “I didn’t think it would be quite in the near future when I first landed on the PGA Tour. Miraculously this year, SBS has signed a 10-year deal to sponsor the opening event.”

The timing could not have been better, with Yang becoming the first Asian-born man to win a major.

Yang, a late bloomer from South Korea who didn’t take up golf until he was 19, had already qualified for the SBS Championship with a victory last March in the Honda Classic. He arrived on Maui as one of the biggest names in the winners-only field, at least as far as the sponsor and many of its clients are concerned.

During a Monday night party, when amateurs get to pick a player for the pro-am, Yang’s name wasn’t available, already set aside for the chairman of SBS and his group. The 37-year-old Yang can barely get from the range to the putting green to the clubhouse without being stopped for autographs and pictures.

For Yang, it feels like 2009 never ended, and for good reason.

During a whirlwind finish to an unforgettable year, he went from the World Cup in China to southern California for the Chevron World Challenge, then a brief stop at his home in Dallas before going to South Korea to be honored. He spent five days in his homeland before returning to Dallas – and a round of golf with former President George W. Bush – and then across the ocean to Maui.

“I wouldn’t say I’m in the best shape,” Yang said. “I’m fairly rested and ready to go on with this new season. However, it feels like it’s a continued season.”

It’s not the worst feeling, for sure.

Yang made history on so many fronts at Hazeltine in August. As well as being the first Asian to win a major, he did the unthinkable in the final round by rallying from two shots behind to defeat Woods, who had never lost a major when leading on the last day.

It was a boon for Asian golf and was part of a big year for South Korea. Beyong-Hun An won the U.S. Amateur, earning exemptions to the first three majors of the year, while Chang-won Han won the first Asian Amateur title and earned an automatic invitation to the Masters in April.

Even so, nothing was bigger than Yang taking down Woods – they call him “Tiger Killer” in Korea – and hoisting his golf bag over his head to celebrate on the 18th green at Hazeltine.

“He did it in style,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “He couldn’t do it any better than that, beating Tiger on the last day of a major. No one had managed to do it so far. Great to watch, cool character. Everyone on tour respects his game and was pretty excited that he is going to be around with us for a long time.”

The same can’t be said for Woods, at least not at the moment.

Even as the season gets under way Thursday in the warmth and beauty of Hawaii, optimism is checked by uncertainty about when Woods will return from a sex scandal that led him to take an indefinite break from golf.

Phil Mickelson also is skipping the season opener for the ninth straight year, waiting until San Diego to make his debut. That leaves only 28 players in the field, matching the tournament record for the smallest field.

For Yang, he is wistful about the absence of another player – K.J. Choi, who failed to win a PGA Tour event last year for the first time since 2004.

While Yang gets the attention as the first player from Asia to win a major, Choi blazed the trail. The year Yang won his first professional tournament, Choi was winning the first of his seven PGA Tour titles.

“At that time, K.J. was playing in a league of gods, you might say,” Yang said. “I was winning tournaments with Korean professionals, while K.J. was playing against the world’s top-ranked players. K.J. inspired a lot of players, not just myself, that Koreans can also play in the PGA Tour.”

Australia’s Ogilvy is the defending champion at Kapalua, a rare occasion when he is the only player in the field to have won on the Plantation Course. Only seven players are back for a second straight year at this tournament exclusively for last year’s PGA Tour winners.

It all creates a sense of uncertainty about 2010.

“This could be wide open,” Steve Stricker said. “I have a feeling Tiger will be back. He doesn’t need many events to get back to the top spot, whether it be in the FedEx Cup or money list or whatever.

“I hope that he’s back sooner than later. But it does have that feel to start the season that it’s wide open.”

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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.”

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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.