Notes Tour navigating through sponsorship
Seth Waugh, the CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas whose company just extended its deal for two years, understands better than most that the tour is emerging from a tough economic climate in amazing shape.
He recalls a phone conversation with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in the fall of 2008.
“This crisis was really bad,” Waugh said last week. “I said, ‘Tim, I know everybody thinks it’s bad, but I’m in the middle of it. And this is really bad. You need to start rethinking a lot of things.’ I wasn’t asking for anything, just giving him advice about being prepared.’
“They’ve done remarkably well,” Waugh said. “I think it’s a great reflection on the game and their own work ethic.”
Finchem said signing up sponsors takes longer than it once did, and that there’s far more scrutiny by companies when it comes to spending discretionary dollars. “But the scrutiny helps us, because compared with other sports, we pencil out pretty good.”
That’s not to suggest the tour is all clear.
The next big piece of the puzzle is a new television contract, with a six-year deal with the networks expiring after 2012.
“The first stage, they’ve done a good job,” Waugh said. “The big one is going to be TV.”
JACK’S RECORD: The rules have changed, meaning this is one record that most likely will never be broken in golf.
Jack Nicklaus won seven majors before playing in his first Ryder Cup.
“I’d say you could put that one in granite,” Justin Leonard said with a laugh.
“That is quite outstanding,” said Ian Poulter, searching for the right words until he settled on “Wow.”
Jeff Overton and Rickie Fowler will make their Ryder Cup debut this year having not won any event on the PGA Tour, just as Oliver Wilson did for Europe two years ago.
Told about Nicklaus winning seven majors before his 1969 Ryder Cup debut, Hunter Mahan jokingly replied, “I won the Bridgestone Invitational. That’s my biggest win.”
Before tour players broke away from the PGA of America, they had to be a PGA member for five years before they were eligible for the Ryder Cup. Nicklaus won his 18 majors over 24 years, yet Phil Mickelson already has played on more Ryder Cup teams (seven).
“I was fortunate to play on six teams,” Nicklaus said. “However, because of the way the rules were at the time, I was not eligible for the Ryder Cup until I became a Class A PGA of America professional.”
MAGIC NUMBER: For Paul Goydos and Stuart Appleby, shooting a 59 was the highlight of their careers.
What followed? Not so much.
“I haven’t even made a cut,” Goydos said last week at the Deutsche Bank Championship, where he ended that dubious streak.
Goydos opened with a 59 at the John Deere Classic and wound up second to Steve Stricker. He then missed the cut in the British Open, The Greenbrier Classic and the PGA Championship before finishing 70th at the TPC Boston.
Appleby is getting better results, just not better scores. Since he shot 59 in the final round to win The Greenbrier, he has yet to break 70 in his last 16 rounds.
This was news to the Australian.
“The only thing I know is I shot the only 59 of my career,” Appleby said after closing with a 70 on Monday. “And that’s the only stat I’m likely to remember.”
Appleby has made the cut every week, but hasn’t cracked the top 50.
“I just haven’t been able to get the magic with the putter,” he said. “I can’t get to that point where I’m tipping my cap. But I’m happy with the way I’m playing.”
VERPLANK WAITS: Scott Verplank won an NCAA title, a U.S. Amateur and a PGA Tour event while attending Oklahoma State, and he remains one of the Cowboys’ biggest boosters. So what was he doing catching up on the Oklahoma Sooners on Sunday?
Verplank had to withdraw from the Deutsche Bank Championship with a left wrist injury so severe that he couldn’t control his club through the swing. He wanted to get an MRI on Sunday, when the offices are closed. Because his doctors also are aligned with the Sooners, his only hope was for injuries to the football team that required tests. That way, doctors could squeeze him in.
“No one from OU got hurt,” he said Monday night. “And today was a holiday.”
Verplank wound up 70th in the FedEx Cup standings, which made him eligible for the BMW Championship. He was to take a cortisone shot Monday night to try to play, then hope the MRI showed no structural damage.
“I might be able to play, but I won’t know until Wednesday afternoon,” Verplank said. “I’ve had quite a few cortisone shots, and I haven’t had one make a difference for the first two or three or four days. This is a last-ditch effort to see if I can get one to work.
“I’m not going to tee it up if I can’t grip the club.”
Verplank was outside the top 70 until Charlie Wi birdied the last hole to go from a four-way tie for 21st to a four-way tie for 18th. Kris Blanks, who had been tied with Wi, slipped into a three-way tie for 22nd and finished two points behind Verplank.
“I texted Charlie and told him I owe him a steak dinner,” Verplank said.
Maybe more than that. The bonus money for 70th place in the FedEx Cup is $110,000, up from $80,000 for 71st place.
DIVOTS: Oklahoma State junior Peter Uihlein has won the Mark H. McCormack Medal for being the No. 1 player in the world amateur ranking, which is decided after the European Amateur and U.S. Amateur. It caps off a strong 12 months for Uihlein, who went 4-0 at the Walker Cup at Merion a year ago and won the U.S. Amateur last month at Chambers Bay. … With his victory in the European Masters, Miguel Angel Jimenez has won 11 times since turning 40. … Robert Allenby, recovering from a knee injury when he slipped on his boat, now believes he has a case of vertigo from bumping his head during the fall. He felt dizzy at times after bending over to pick up his tee at the TPC Boston.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods has lost more world ranking points than any other player has gained this year.
FINAL WORD: “I’ve been on more teams than I have wins.” – Hunter Mahan, with three PGA Tour victories. He has been on two Presidents Cup and two Ryder Cup teams.
PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation
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
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.
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.
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
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.”
PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes
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:
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.
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.