A potentially new path to the PGA Tour

By Doug FergusonMarch 23, 2011, 3:24 am

PGA Tour (75x100)ORLANDO, Fla. – Someone’s dream comes true every December.

It could be an All-American from a golf powerhouse or a guy who has been toiling on the mini-tours for longer than he cares to remember. It could be someone as old as Allen Doyle (48) or as young as Ty Tryon (17). Some of them are so choked up they can’t speak. Others are so excited they can’t stop talking.

These are the stories and the emotions of Q-School for those who earn a ticket to the PGA Tour.

And this is what the PGA Tour wants to take away.

“I don’t think I necessarily like that,” J.B. Holmes, speaking from experience. Holmes went straight from Kentucky to the Walker Cup to all three stages of Q-School and had his PGA Tour card. Two months later, he won the Phoenix Open.

And then there’s Rickie Fowler.

He also made it through Q-School on his first try at age 21. Ten months later, he birdied the last four holes at Celtic Manor to earn an improbable halve in a critical singles match at the Ryder Cup.

Why take away an opportunity like that?

Because of all the other stories that don’t have such a happy ending.

“There is some charm to that,” David Duval said of Q-School. “But history shows that romanticism, as attractive as it may be, leads to failure 10 months later when you lose your card and you’re back in the cycle.”

According to the PGA Tour media guide, Q-School has been around since 1965. A record 57 players earned PGA Tour cards in 1983. But as the minor leagues took root, tour officials began taking away the number of cards offered at Q-School and giving more to the top Nationwide players. The thinking was they proved themselves over an entire season.

The next move appears to be radical.

The policy board has given preliminary approval to a concept that essentially would end Q-School as we know it.

At the end of the regular season in Greensboro, N.C., the top 125 in the standings would go to the FedEx Cup playoffs and the money list would be closed for the year.

The next 50 or 75 players would join the top 50 or 75 players from the Nationwide Tour to play the “Finals Series,” comprised of three tournaments that amount to a different kind of playoffs. The top 50 players from those three tournaments would earn their cards for the next season. Consider it 12 rounds of Q-School spread over three weeks.

The pressure could be just as great. The quality of competition would be stronger than ever.

As for Q-School?

It still would be played at the end of the year, but the only cards available would be for the Nationwide Tour. If not for a player’s pride and patience, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Statistics show that players who spend a year on the Nationwide Tour typically are more prepared for the PGA Tour than someone straight out of Q-School. They learn to cope with success and slumps while traveling from week to week. It’s life on the tour, minus the courtesy cars and press coverage.

“I’ve yet to find a serious flaw in it, how it’s not better than what we have,” said Paul Goydos, who is on the policy board. “Is it as romantic and sexy as we had? Maybe not. More efficient? Yeah. We get caught up in the idea that we’re losing a piece of golf tradition that we’ve had our whole lives. But all I’ve ever heard players talk about (Q-School) was that it was torture.”

Among the countless details for the tour to work out is this harrowing prospect – if a player goes through all three stages of Q-School, then wins a record amount of money to lead the Nationwide Tour the next year, he still is not guaranteed a spot on the PGA Tour. He could hit a bad patch during the three-event series and have to start over.

The tour needs an umbrella sponsor for its developmental tour after 2012, and this would make it more appealing. That said, the tour has been looking at the merits of Q-School and the Nationwide Tour long before Nationwide decided to end its sponsorship.

The tour still is providing players a shot at the PGA Tour – just not right away.

Fowler and Jamie Lovemark lost in a playoff at the Frys.com Open toward the end of 2009. One of them went on to earn his card at Q-School (and play in the Ryder Cup), the other went to the Nationwide Tour and led the money list.

Under the proposal, both would have been on the Nationwide Tour.

“Obviously, I was trying to make the PGA Tour, but what I wanted was a place to play,” Fowler said. “Look at Jamie. He found his way here, he just took a side route. I wouldn’t have been upset playing the Nationwide Tour.”

Even so, there’s a stigma about the Nationwide Tour. It’s about settling for second best.

Bill Haas was so disappointed at not making it out of Q-School in 2004 that he said, “I think if I have to play there more than four or five years, I’ll quit golf.”

He played one full year, earned his card through Q-School and has been on the PGA Tour ever since.

One way or another, the best will get through.

Duval was one of the best players of his generation, yet he failed to get through Q-School. After one year on what was then the Nike Tour, he had three runner-up finishes and was 11th on the PGA Tour money list as a rookie.

He is not surprised by the outrage over the potential for something new. Golf, perhaps more than any sport, is slow to embrace change.

“We play a game long on traditions,” Duval said.

No matter how this shakes out, he only wants to make sure one tradition doesn’t change.

“As long as the low score still wins.”

Getty Images

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.


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.”