Recapping the round memories of golf in 2010

By Doug FergusonDecember 28, 2010, 11:18 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Florida –  Framed photographs large and small hang in every room and adorn the walls of every corridor inside the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, memories of Arnold Palmer and more than a half-century he devoted to golf.

He is flinging his visor after winning the Masters. He is posing with one of his best friends, Dow Finsterwald, and his longtime rival, Jack Nicklaus. In one picture, he is wearing a Chinese hat during his first trip to China to design a golf course.

Unmistakable in nearly every photograph is a smile.

In his design company office one day in December, he was asked why he was always seemed happy.

“I loved what I was doing,” he said. “I got to play a great game. I have a great life, a great family, all the things you could want. I love the feeling of getting out of bed each morning.”

Golf featured its share of unpleasant moments this year—Tiger Woods, leaning back against his locker at Sawgrass with his eyes closed after pulling out of The Players Championship, perhaps the low point on the golf course in a year filled with them; Dustin Johnson, erasing his scorecard to change a 5 to a 7 after being told he was in a bunker on the last hole of the PGA Championship; Paul Casey, facing reporters who wanted answers he didn’t have as to why he was left off the Ryder Cup team.

The photos of Palmer are a reminder that it’s a great game, and a great life. As always, there were plenty of poignant moments from a year on the PGA Tour that go beyond birdies and bogeys and bunkers:

Lee Westwood shot 68 in the final round of the Honda Classic, and when he signed his card, he was in a seven-way tie for 15th.

He retreated to the bar with his agent, Chubby Chandler, and watched the follies unfold as one player after another dropped shots coming in at PGA National. When it was over, Westwood was in a three-way tie for ninth, the difference of about $87,000.

“The best drink we’ve ever had,” Chandler said.

Paul Goydos didn’t want to wait for officials to stop play, not when he was facing a tough tee shot on the 11th hole at Riviera in a cold rain that was starting to come down sideways.

That’s when he declared that the tee box was in casual water and someone would have to call for the maintenance crew. He figured that would take enough time for the tour to decide to suspend play. What he didn’t realize was the maintenance shed was right behind him.

In less than a minute, three workers arrived carrying squeegees.

Goydos was startled, finally breaking the silence by saying under his breath, “Well, that didn’t work out too well.”

Play on.

Tiger Woods was in the second-to-last group at the U.S. Open, five shots behind Dustin Johnson. He was playing with Gregory Havret. The final group was Johnson and Graeme McDowell, none having ever contended in a major.

Before leaving the putting green and walking up the steps to the first tee, Woods hit a 50-foot lag putt toward the hole at the far edge of the green. He left it 5 feet short, then settled over that putt.

He missed. Woods reached with his putter to bring the ball back to him, stood over it, and missed it again. He pulled the ball back and missed a third time, then missed a fourth time. With that, he handed the putter to his caddie and headed to the tee.

On the first hole, he three-putted for bogey. Within an hour, his U.S. Open hopes were gone.

Phil Mickelson walked off the 10th tee at St. Andrews during a practice round and saw the concession stands. His eyes lit up, not just because he was hungry, but it was an opportunity for one of his favorite treats. Mickelson is known to walk up to a food stand at tournaments and announce he’s buying for everyone in line.

He took his wallet from his bag and told his caddie and coach he would be with them in a few minutes. It didn’t take long for Mickelson to rejoin them, however, and he wasn’t happy.

It was Sunday. The concession stand was closed.

For the last several years, Ryder Cup officials have arranged for the U.S. captain to make a tour of the big cities leading to the matches. That stop includes Los Angeles in September, and it was a natural for Corey Pavin. He grew up in Ventura County and starred on the UCLA golf team.

The media turnout was strong, but Pavin seemed an afterthought midway through his news conference. He noticed several reporters stepping outside to answer cell phones. One Ryder Cup official thought it extremely rude.

Only later did they learn Joe Torre had announced he was retiring as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Ryder Cup charter to Wales was either oversold or there were not enough seats. Whatever the case, two caddies were bumped from the charter – Frank Williams, the caddie for Stewart Cink, and Steve Williams, who works for Tiger Woods.

How fitting.

Not only are they close friends, but Frank Williams doesn’t like traveling to Britain and Steve Williams doesn’t like the Ryder Cup.

“You know why Stevie hates the Ryder Cup so much don’t you?” Frank Williams said. “Because up until this year, he wasn’t used to working for a check that small.”

One of the most entertaining nights of the year is when European Tour caddies are feted – and roasted – at the HSBC Champions. Fanny Sunesson won an award for “misclub of the year.”

Turns out her boss, Henrik Stenson, hit a 3-wood on the 18th hole at Dubai that not only failed to clear the large pond fronting the green, it barely made it to the water.

For her honor, Sunesson won two bottles of fine wine. Stenson, with mock anger, marched onto the stage and took one of the bottles before returning to his seat. He came back on stage as Sunesson explained what happened.

It dates to the previous year at the Masters, when Stenson wanted to hit 3-wood for his second shot on the 15th. Knowing that the Swede tends to hit his 3-wood low and hard, she reminded him he would have to hit a high, soft cut. Stenson instead drilled it over the green, almost into the water behind the green.

“So we get to Dubai and he wants to hit 3-wood to the green,” Sunesson explains. “Now this was the right shot for his 3-wood. And tell them what you did, Henrik.”

Stenson, slowly bowed his head and leaned toward the microphone.

“Soft cut,” he said.

After the third round of the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, some 200 fans stood behind the railing outside the clubhouse after Woods walked by to sign his card. One man in the middle of the pack led a chant in Chinese that, based on the cadence, most likely was, “We want Tiger! We want Tiger!” This went on for a few minutes until a lone voice in broken English called out, “Tiger, where are you?”

The chant started again, but he had left through a back door to meet with sponsors.

A month later during the pro-am at the Chevron World Challenge, Woods had to walk along a cart path toward the 13th fairway. Three times, he stopped and posed for pictures with fans, something he has never done.

Something old, something new.

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 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.”