Notes: DJ finally ready to tee it up at Memorial

By Doug FergusonMay 29, 2012, 11:20 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Dustin Johnson was on the putting green at Muirfield Village with his light blue shirt untucked. It was a sure sign that he had not been at a PGA Tour event in nearly three months, only it had nothing to do with a dress code.

''I forgot to pack my belts,'' he said.

Johnson last played at Doral the second week of March. Coming off minor knee surgery in the offseason, he tweaked his back early in the year and then injured it the weekend before the Masters while pushing a jet ski out of the water.

''And then when I went to try to play golf the next day, that was when I knew it was injured badly, and I was not going to be able to play,'' Johnson said.

He sat out for two months, wanting to make sure it was completely healthy.

Now, he has some catching up to do. Johnson was No. 4 in the Ryder Cup standings when the season began, and he helped himself with a few tournaments in contention at Pebble Beach and Riviera. Without having played since March, however, he is at No. 24. The top eight automatically qualify.

''Just have to play good golf,'' he said. ''Probably wouldn't hurt if I won a tournament between now and then. That would definitely help. I'm just going to have to get in contention a few times and have some high finishes and play good in the U.S. Open and PGA.''

Johnson's record in team play is 2-6-1 in the last Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, though he badly wants to be part of the Ryder Cup team at Medinah.

''I want to be on the team, and I'm going to do whatever I can to make it,'' he said. ''Obviously, having a couple months off hurts a little bit, but I've still got plenty of time to make the team.''


RYDER CUP SLIP: U.S. captain Davis Love III has not announced his assistants for the Ryder Cup in September. Fred Couples took care of that for him on Tuesday.

Couples was introduced as Presidents Cup captain for the third time, and he was asked if that hurt his chances of ever being a Ryder Cup captain.

''No, I really never looked at it that way,'' he said. ''I'm going to help Davis, I think.''

Then he paused and smiled.

''I don't know if that's out yet, but I believe he's pretty much put that out there.''

As the room erupted in laughter, Couples added, ''Davis, wherever you are. ...''


AMAZING GRACE: Branden Grace of South Africa is still trying to get acclimated to the big stages in golf, which sounds odd considering he has won more tournaments than any other player on the European and PGA Tour this year.

Grace won twice in South Africa, including a playoff win over Ernie Els, and then won the China Open and is No. 4 on the European Tour money list.

Even so, last week was a big one for him. He finished fifth in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, his second time this year competing against a field that featured the top three players in the world ranking. The other event was Doral, a World Golf Championship where he finished in the middle of the pack.

''My first time at Wentworth, actually, and I think not just for myself, but everybody wanted to see how I can perform on that big of a stage with Rory and Luke and Westwood and those guys in the field,'' Grace said. ''I really played well. I didn't play as well as I wanted to play. I played decent, got it around. But it was a good experience, and I'm just looking forward to this week.''

The week won't be as long as Grace expected.

He had signed up for the U.S. Open qualifier on Monday. But with his fifth-place finish at Wentworth, Grace moved up to No. 55 in the world.

The top 60 in the world on June 10 are exempt from qualifying. Based on the way he is playing, Grace is comfortable that he will be among the top 60 in two weeks, so he will skip the qualifier.

''The decision is made,'' he said. ''Should be good enough to get into the Open, and take it from there.''

Instead of 36 holes in Ohio, he will fly to south Florida and spend a week with good friends Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel to prepare for the U.S Open.


QUALIFYING COVERAGE: The Golf Channel will never be busier than on the Monday after the Memorial.

It is sending reporters and producers to 14 U.S. Open qualifying sites around the country, from Texas to Colorado, California to Ohio, Washington to Tennessee. Golf Channel is calling it ''Golf's Longest Day,'' and it will be covering stories from 7 a.m. to midnight with three dedicated specials and news updates throughout the day.


RYO CADDIE: Another tournament, another caddie for Ryo Ishikawa.

The Japanese star has switched to local caddies for his next five tournaments on Tour, which began last week at Colonial. This week at the Memorial, Ishikawa selected Adam Claytor, who came highly recommended by Muirfield Village members. Claytor played college golf at Ohio Wesleyan and is in his second year working at Muirfield Village, while playing mini tours when he can.

Hiroyuki Kato, who has caddied for Ishikawa throughout most of his young career, did not accompany him on the trip.


FOLLOWING FREDDIE: It would be unfair to say that Fred Couples speaks out of both sides of his mouth. It's just that when the words come out, they go in all sorts of directions. The latest example comes from his thoughts on the golf course before the Senior PGA Championship last week.

Try to follow along.

''It's maybe a little forgiving, but if you're off, you're going to struggle to make pars,'' he said. ''We're talking about the par 5s now. So to be honest with you, I don't remember where the par 5s are. I think maybe the fifth hole is a par 5. Well, I don't really know. It's hard. It depends what way the wind blows.''


DIVOTS: Luke Donald, the first player to win the money title on the PGA and European Tour in the same season, has been awarded an honorary life membership on the European Tour. Of the eight players awarded life memberships in the last three years, Donald is the only one who didn't win a major. ... Paul Spengler, executive vice president of Pebble Beach, has been given the Herbert Hoover Humanitarian Award by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. ... Zach Johnson has won eight times on Tour but in only three states - four in Texas, three in Georgia, one in Hawaii. ... Only 15 players who are exempt and plan to play in the U.S. Open were at The Olympic Club the last time it was there in 1998. That includes Olin Browne, eligible this time as the U.S. Senior Open champion.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Of the 17 Americans who have won on Tour this year, 11 started the season in the top 50 in the world ranking.


FINAL WORD: ''He is a bit slower than the three of us.'' – Rickie Fowler, on Ben Crane being the only player from the ''Golf Boys'' video who hasn't won this year.

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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.