Tiger all the talk at Chevron World Challenge
“Would you like to know what questions are being asked?” Harrington said.
Westwood smiled and said, “I imagine there’s only one.”
Tiger Woods’ presence is larger than ever, even if he isn’t coming to his own tournament. As most players were getting ready to practice Tuesday, TV sets were tuned to a press conference in Florida, where state troopers declared the investigation into his Nov. 27 early morning crash was over and that Woods would be cited for careless driving and fined $164.
Then came an Us Weekly story with a woman claiming to have text messages and voice mails from an affair with Woods that began more than two years ago. That magazine cover story comes less than a week after the National Enquirer published a story alleging that Woods had been seeing New York nightclub hostess Rachel Uchitel, who has denied it.
“There’s lot of questions that we’re never going to get the answers to, and the fact that he is the No. 1 sports star in the world means that there is going to be a higher profile to those things,” Harrington said. “It is what it is because of how good he is, and he’ll have to deal with it. I don’t know exactly what the truth of it all is, and the thing is, I don’t think anybody is ever going to know exactly what’s gone on. And that’s probably a good thing.
“But it won’t stop people from guessing and questioning things like that,” he said. “That’s human nature. We’re intrigued by other people’s lives.”
Most players, even those who are close to Woods, have not heard from him and don’t know what to think, much less say.
“I haven’t talked to him,” said Mark O’Meara, who took him under his wing when Woods turned pro at age 20 in 1996.
Steve Stricker went undefeated with Woods as his partner at the Presidents Cup, and their wives walked together in some of those matches. He usually gets a quick answer when he sends a text message from Woods. This time, not a peep.
“Since I haven’t heard back, I imagine he’s in – I don’t know the right word – a lot of pain,” Stricker said. “And I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know what it’s all about. I just feel bad for the guy. He’s getting hammered in the media.”
The tournament now has taken a supporting role to the drama being played out inside the gates of Isleworth, where Woods crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant and tree, and in celebrity magazines.
NBC Sports will be televising the tournament this week, and executive producer Tommy Roy said he could not say how the network will cover Woods’ absence.
“We’ll have to see what further happens in the story,” Roy said. “Between now and when we come on the air Saturday, that’s a lot of time. We have a golf tournament to cover. It’s too early to determine what we’ll do.”
Greg McLaughlin, president of the Tiger Woods Foundation and tournament director, said sponsor Chevron would have liked Woods to be part of the tournament, “but they respect his decision, they support his decision.”
Asked if he had spoken to Woods, McLaughlin paused and said, “It’s not appropriate for me to talk about Tiger.”
The players don’t want to talk, either, although they anticipated such questions when they came to California.
“It’s difficult for me to comment, because I only know what you know – probably less than what you know,” Westwood said. “I was shocked when I heard it was a serious accident, then relieved to here he had been released from the hospital. Other than that, the rest is speculation and people putting their own assumption to things. I have no time for all that, and I don’t want to be part of it.”
Even in such an individual sport, there is a camaraderie that exists – Americans and Europeans, the No. 1 player and No. 120 player – because ultimately, the competition is between the player and the course.
British Open champion Stewart Cink pointed out that it still can be a lonely game, far different from football and baseball teams.
“It’s hard when you don’t have that built-in framework of the team, when you can sort of absorb yourself into a jersey,” Cink said. “Out here, you’re an island. When you play great, you’re an island. When you play poorly, you’re an island. And when you have some attention off the course that you’d rather not have, then you’re an island.”
Woods is not likely to play again until the San Diego Invitational at Torrey Pines, which starts Jan. 28. Some players still have the Shark Shootout next week in Florida, others will open their season the first week of January in Hawaii.
Chances are, Woods will remain a topic of conversation.
“When you’re the biggest sports star in the world, that goes with the territory,” Harrington said. “You create these stories, and in six weeks’ time, it might be somebody else’s story. We’ll have to wait and see what evolves. But the one thing that’s for sure, we’ll all be watching. As I said, that’s human nature.”
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.