Mahan defeats McIlroy for Match Play title

By Doug FergusonFebruary 26, 2012, 9:04 pm

MARANA, Ariz. - Hunter Mahan stopped Rory McIlroy’s march to No. 1 by winning the Match Play Championship on Sunday.

Mahan won four holes in a five-hole stretch starting with a 9-iron to 2 feet on the sixth hole, building a 4-up lead through 10 holes. Even as McIlroy threw his best stuff at him on the back nine, Mahan responded with two clutch birdies to stay in control.

Mahan won, 2 and 1, to capture his second World Golf Championship title. “He’s the best player in the world right now,” Mahan said. “I knew he’d made a charge, and he did.”

McIlroy defeated Lee Westwood in the semifinals Sunday morning, a high-stakes match because if either of them won the Match Play Championship, they would replace Luke Donald atop the world ranking.

Mahan made sure that didn’t happen this week.

He played 96 holes in his six matches and had 35 birdies on his scorecards. Mahan defeated Mark Wilson in his semifinal match - Wilson was his only opponent all week who had not played in a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup.

McIlroy, who made seven birdies in a 10-hole stretch Sunday morning to beat Westwood, couldn’t muster any magic in the afternoon. He missed a 4-foot par putt that would have won the opening hole, then fell behind with a series of mistakes.

On the seventh hole, with Mahan already in trouble in a deep collection area left of the green, McIlroy pulled his short iron and joined him there. But it took McIlroy two chips to get on the green, and he lost the hole with a double bogey.

Then McIlroy’s sand wedge hopped over the green on the par-5 eighth and he lost that hole with a bogey.

Mahan’s big lead was enough to withstand the McIlroy charge. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland played the opening six holes on the back nine in 5-under par, but still picked up only one hole on Mahan.

“I tried to claw myself back, but I left myself too much work,” McIlroy said.

He also got off to a slow start against Westwood, 3 down through four holes, before roaring past him. McIlroy didn’t have the shots, and didn’t appear to have the energy, to do that twice in one day.

That was always his concern. There was so much anticipation about his semifinal match with Westwood.

“I knew that might be the toughest thing for me,” McIlroy said. “I knew that if I got through, I had to get myself up for the final. That’s not an excuse. He was solid as ever. He’s a deserving champion.”

Mahan became the first American to win the Match Play Championship since Tiger Woods in 2008. He became only the sixth player to win multiple WGC titles, joining Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy and Darren Clarke.

The last time Mahan was in a pressure situation against a player from Northern Ireland was in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, when U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole of the decisive match.

Even so, the memories of that match are Mahan duffing a chip on the last hole, even though McDowell was likely to win the match. Mahan has worked hard on his chipping, and he feels it carried him this week.

Two shots were pivotal.

McIlroy won his first hole by chipping in for eagle from about 60 feet on the par-5 11th. Two holes later, McIlroy was safely in for birdie and Mahan had to get up-and-down from a bunker to avoid losing another hole. He blasted out to 6 feet and made the putt.

McIlroy birdied the 14th from 7 feet to cut the lead to 2 up, and on the 315-yard 15th, he hit driver to 30 feet for an eagle attempt. Mahan was short of the green, and elected to use his putter. He rolled it up the slope to tap-in range, and McIlroy missed.

Mahan likely goes to No. 9 in the world, the first time in his career he has been in the top 10. He earned $1.4 million for his fourth career victory, two of them WGC titles against the world’s best players.

McIlroy looked like the world’s best player Sunday morning.

In the most anticipated match of the week, Westwood birdied two holes and won another when McIlroy missed a 5-footer for par to build a 3-up lead through four holes. As quickly as Westwood took the lead, he lost it.

McIlroy was simply sensational.

He made par to win the fifth hole, made a 30-foot birdie on the sixth, caught Westwood with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 eighth, then took a 1-up lead to the back nine with a 5-foot birdie.

McIlroy holed a 25-foot birdie on the 12th to go 2 up, then seized control with a birdie on the 13th as Westwood was wild off the tee. His drive sailed left into the gallery, hit a woman in the back and the ball rolled down the inside of her sweater.

“Would you mind walking 250 yards forward?” quipped Billy Foster, Westwood’s caddie.

That might not have mattered the way McIlroy played. He closed him out on the 17th hole.

Mahan won the first two holes against Wilson and never trailed, though he didn’t take control until a birdie on the 15th hole.

In the consolation match, Wilson played the 18th hole for the first time all week and defeated Westwood, 1 up

 

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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.”