Phil Mickelson poised for yet another run at Tiger

By Doug FergusonSeptember 30, 2009, 1:54 am

PGA Tour (75x100)ORLANDO, Fla. – Even after eight decades of golf, Arnold Palmer is vulnerable to a few surprises.

In this case, both occurred on the same day.

He watched the final round of the Tour Championship, where Tiger Woods started two shots out of the lead and didn’t make a birdie until the 15th hole. By then, Phil Mickelson blew past everyone and won by three shots.

“I was a little surprised at Tiger,” Palmer said Tuesday at his Bay Hill Club. “If you just watch him like I do – and I’ve watched him since he was a little guy – just the way he walks, the way he holds himself, it amazed me he didn’t win. That was my reaction.”

And then came a bigger surprise.

Did he ever imagine seeing two fierce rivals posing on the 18th green while holding their own trophy?

Palmer threw his head back and laughed.

“No, but that’s good,” he said. “I did think about that. I just didn’t put it that context.”

Sunday at East Lake presented a bizarre scene, for sure, when Mickelson rallied to win the Tour Championship and Woods did enough on the back nine to capture the FedEx Cup. The PGA Tour could not have asked for a better finish to its FedEx Cup. Golf is at its most interesting when Woods and Mickelson are on top of their games.

The question is how long this will last.

The next time Woods and Mickelson play against each other – assuming they aren’t partners in the Presidents Cup – is scheduled to be the HSBC Championship in Shanghai the first week of November.

The better barometer will be in 2010.

The way he won and the player he beat must have made Mickelson wish that next year started next week. He had been hitting the ball well enough to contend just about every week. His driving – higher launch, less spin, straighter than ever – was superb at East Lake.

The problem was his putting, which was so bad that Mickelson asked his caddie for suggestions. Jim “Bones” MacKay jumped at the chance to help, and spent the Monday after the BMW Championship searching for Dave Stockton’s phone number.

“Bones came up with the idea,” Mickelson said. “I said, ‘Bones, for two years I’ve been kind of floundering here, not having the right direction. I want you to think about it.’ He came back the next day and he said, ‘I think you should call Dave Stockton.”’

Mickelson and Stockton hooked up in San Diego, and Stockton encouraged him to return to his putting style of old – a forward press with his hands, which Mickelson had been doing since he was a kid. The move felt natural, and the results were astounding. He one-putted 36 times over 72 holes at East Lake.

“I feel like I have some direction now on where I want to go with my putter,” Mickelson said. “I felt like I’ve been hitting it this well for quite some time since working with Butch (Harmon), and yet I have not had the results. To be able to put it all together from tee-to-green, as well as on the green, feels great.”

He looked so good that NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller suggested Mickelson could win PGA Tour player of the year.

Mickelson is talented enough to do that.

So, too, is the guy he has been trying to chase for the better part of a dozen years.

Even a player of Mickelson’s caliber – 37 career victories on the PGA Tour and three majors – still needs more than one tournament to show that he is up to the challenge. Because what the last decade has shown is that when Mickelson appears ready to challenge, Woods always seems to have an answer.

Go back to 1998.

One year after Woods’ established himself at No. 1 with a 12-shot win at the Masters among his four victories, Mickelson won the season-opening Mercedes Championship with a strong statement. After hearing the roar for Woods’ eagle during a Sunday charge, Mickelson fired off four birdies over the next five holes and went on to win at La Costa.

He didn’t win again for seven months. He didn’t win a major for six more years.

Some other examples:

– Mickelson won consecutive events on the West Coast in 2005 and was atop the leaderboard for 10 consecutive rounds in stroke play until Woods beat him in a duel at Doral. Mickelson didn’t win again until the PGA Championship five months later.

– Mickelson was one hole away from joining Woods and Ben Hogan as the only players to win three straight majors in the modern era until he took double bogey on the 18th hole at Winged Foot and tied for second in the 2006 U.S. Open. He didn’t seriously contend in another major for two years.

– Playing with Woods for third time in four days, Mickelson buried him on the front nine of the TPC Boston and shot 66 for a two-shot victory at the 2007 Deutsche Bank Championship. That gave Mickelson the lead in the FedEx Cup standings, but he took the next week off. Woods answered by winning the final two playoff events and the FedEx Cup.

So what will this Tour Championship victory over Woods do for Mickelson?

Lefty turns 40 in June, which could give him an even greater sense of urgency. Then again, Woods has a say in this rivalry, too.

“Certainly, I would love to go at it again with him,” Woods said.

Most everyone would love to see it.

Perhaps the Tour Championship was preview for what could be a special year in 2010.

Or maybe it was a rerun.

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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.