Tiger looks like the Tiger of old

By Doug FergusonAugust 27, 2010, 4:33 pm

PARAMUS, N.J. – A season filled with “worsts” finally gave way to a couple of “firsts” for Tiger Woods.

By missing only one fairway and having a birdie putt on all but two holes, Woods began the FedEx Cup playoffs with a 6-under 65 for a share of the lead with Vaughn Taylor after one round at The Barclays.

It was the first time in 335 days that he found his name atop the leaderboard on the PGA Tour.

It was the first time in 12 rounds, dating to the opening round at St. Andrews six weeks ago, that he broke 70.

It was the first time since the 2006 British Open at Royal Liverpool that he hit 3-wood on every par 5, an example of Woods choosing to navigate his way smartly around Ridgewood Country Club in soft conditions.

It was the first time he played a round without ever seeing anyone in front of him on the golf course, courtesy of being so far down in the FedEx Cup standings (No. 112) that he was in the first group off Thursday morning.

The first time he hit the ball so well?

Not quite.

But it sure felt that way.

“It’s exciting to hit the ball flush like this again,” Woods said. “It’s something I’ve been missing all year. I haven’t hit it flush. And it felt good to hit the ball and shape it both ways and really hit it through the wind. I’ve hit so many shots this year that haven’t been hit flush enough to get through the wind. But today, I was doing it all day.”

The next step, and perhaps a more important step, is where he goes from here.

It might have been sheer coincidence that Woods finally looked like the No. 1 player in his first competitive round since his divorce on Monday. There is not much left to say about his car crash after Thanksgiving night, the sex scandal that dominated supermarket tabloids, his five-month break from the game, his worst 36-hole score and worst 72-hole score in his PGA Tour career, and the end of his marriage.

It was all about his golf on a sunny day in northern New Jersey, and the news was good for a change.

Did he feel a weight lifted from his shoulders?

“I can’t really say that’s the case,” Woods said. “As far as golf, it was nice to put it together.”

It started with a simple 3-wood down the middle of the opening hole, a pitching wedge that landed 20 feet behind the hole and spun back on the spongy green to 15 feet below the cup, and the confident stride toward the hole when the birdie putt disappeared.

He made birdie on a par 5 – that’s news these days.

On one of the two holes where he hit driver – the par-4 fifth, measuring 291 yards – it was so flawless that his tee shot landed some 10 feet left of the flag and settled 15 feet away for a two-putt birdie.

Woods didn’t miss a green until the 11th hole, and while he dropped his only shot from a fairway bunker on No. 12, he recovered quickly with a birdie on the 13th, and a 6-iron that plopped down 2 feet from the cup.

Woods and Taylor both played in the morning, when the greens were smooth and the conditions were only breezy. They had a one-shot lead over Adam Scott, Brian Gay and Ryan Palmer. Scott played in the afternoon, where a gust of wind played tricks on him at the final hole and led to bogey.

Scott endured a long day in the pro-am Wednesday and didn’t think Ridgewood would serve up a 65 to anyone.

“Seeing some good scores this morning made me change my mind,” he said.

That one of those scores belonged to Woods was hardly a surprise.

“For him to piece things together can’t be too hard,” Scott said. “He’s very good.”

The 65 was his lowest score in 46 rounds, dating to a 62 in the BMW Championship last year. Taylor grinned when asked if he was surprised to see Woods’ name on the leaderboard.

“Somewhat, you know?” he said. “It’s good to see him back up top.”

With sunshine and a light breeze, conditions were ripe for scoring. Palmer had a chance to join the leaders until a three-putt bogey on the 18th put him at 66. Even though the greens became bumpy in the afternoon after so much foot traffic, the course was soft enough to allow for good scores. There were 14 players who shot 67, including Davis Love III, defending champion Heath Slocum and Stewart Cink.

Phil Mickelson, with his ninth chance in the past four months to replace Woods at No. 1 in the world, made only one birdie for a 72.

For Woods, the timing could not have been better.

Only the top 100 in the FedEx Cup standings advance to the second round of the playoffs next week in the Deutsche Bank Championship. Woods at least needs to make the cut, then finish in the middle of the pack. He had a better solution.

“I figure if I win, I should be OK,” Woods said.

For one of the few times this year, he gave himself ample reason to believe that.

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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.