Tiger never ceases to amaze, even his caddies

By Doug FergusonFebruary 8, 2012, 1:14 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – It only took Mike “Fluff” Cowan one tournament as the caddie for Tiger Woods to see a shot he had never seen.Joe LaCava had that moment in his third week working for Woods.

Cowan was the first caddie Woods hired when he made his professional debut in the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open. He doesn’t remember which round, or even what hole they were on, just the club selection off the tee.

“It was his stinger, his 2-iron,” Cowan said, looking around until he locked his eyes on the waist-high mesh around the practice green at Sherwood Country Club. “It didn’t hardly get over that green net. But it stayed in the air forever. It went out there 270 yards or something. That was the one that got me.

“It was just a different kind of shot that I had ever seen anybody hit.”

LaCava, hired by Woods in October, had spent plenty of time around the 14-time major champion during his 20 years on the bag with Fred Couples, with whom Woods often played.

Even so, a 3-wood on the par-5 15th at Royal Melbourne during the Presidents Cup got his attention, and a few weeks later, he still had trouble describing what he saw.

“He hit it such a way that it was trajecting like this,” LaCava, using his hand to show a flat line with the slightest downward arc. “But it wasn’t coming down. It wasn’t rising, either. It’s hard to describe. It was gaining speed, but it wasn’t going up. That’s when I thought, ‘This guy is making the ball do something I’ve never seen anyone else do.’ I had never seen a trajectory like this on a 3-wood or any other shot.”

LaCava said the pin was cut in the front right portion of the green, and the ball finally stopped in the back left corner. The shot was into the wind, and in firm conditions, and he estimates it went just under 270 yards.

Just then, Woods walked up on the discussion. And when he sensed the conversation ending, he said, “Keep going.”

“Look at that little grin on his face,” LaCava said. “He knows what I’m talking about. But he won’t say anything about it.”




MATCH PLAY: This is the final week to qualify for the Match Play Championship, making the world rankings relevant for the first of several times this year.

Among those on the bubble for the 64-man field are Ernie Els (No. 62), followed by Kevin Na, Robert Allenby, Ryan Moore and Charles Howell, who at No. 66 is currently just beyond getting the final spot at Dove Mountain in two weeks.

That depends on Paul Casey, who dislocated his right shoulder while snowboarding. Casey is on the mend, and there is an outside chance he could play. Phil Mickelson already has said he is not playing.

Na tied for fifth in the Phoenix Open, moving up nine spots to No. 63. He can nail down his spot in the World Golf Championship at Pebble Beach this week, as can Ryan Moore at No. 65.

The others can only hope they hold their positions. Els, Allenby and Howell are not playing the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am or the Dubai Desert Classic.

Eight of the next 10 players beyond No. 66 are playing this week - Joost Luiten, Rory Sabbatini, Nicolas Colsaerts, Alex Noren, Spencer Levin, Sean O’Hair, Vijay Singh and Chez Reavie. The exceptions are Toru Taniguchi (No. 70) and Johnson Wagner (No. 73).

Last week’s winners, Paul Lawrie (Qatar) and Kyle Stanley (Phoenix), both locked up spots in the Match Play.


INKSTER OUT: Even when she took time off the LPGA to have two children, Juli Inkster never went more than a month without playing golf. Now comes her biggest challenge.

After trying to cope with pain in her right elbow, Inkster had surgery Jan. 27 to repair a torn tendon. The 51-year-old Hall of Famer will be in some form of a cast for the next month and might not be able to return until the middle of summer at the earliest.

That’s OK with her.

“It’s going to take a lot of work, but I want to go out on my terms,” Inkster said. “This is the first injury I’ve ever had. Before the surgery, I was kind of floundering. I wouldn’t say I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at least this is the start of the tunnel.”

The tough part will be finding something to do, except for the physical therapy. Inkster is all about competing. It’s been in her blood since she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur three straight years and then went on to the career Grand Slam.

“Me? How do you think Brian is feeling?” said Inkster, whose husband is the head pro at Los Altos Country Club. “I’m sure there’s going to be some ‘Sorry, I’ve got another meeting today, honey.’ I think once I get started with physical therapy I’m going to be fine. But I’ve been watching a lot of ‘NCIS.’ It got to the point where I was watching so much football I started calling the plays.”


RYDER CUP: Kyle Stanley has shot to the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup standings with his playoff loss at Torrey Pines and win in Phoenix.

But there’s a long way to go.

Thanks to Paul Azinger’s captaincy, Ryder Cup points are based on all PGA Tour earnings this year, with the majors counting double. There are still four majors, three World Golf Championships ($8.5 million purse), The Players Championship (at least $9.5 million) and three other events with at least $6.5 million in prize money.

Here’s another way to look at it.

After the Phoenix Open in 2010, the top eight in the standings were Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Hunter Mahan, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ben Crane. Only four of them – Stricker, Johnson, Mahan and Mickelson – qualified.

Three others who made the team – Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk and Jeff Overton – were not even among the top 25 in the standings. The other was Matt Kuchar, who was 13th at this time and wound up getting the final spot.


DIVOTS: Daniel Chopra had a day to remember at Pebble Beach during a practice round Monday. He made a hole-in-one on the seventh hole and then made another ace on the 17th. … Karrie Webb, the only woman to capture the LPGA’s “Super Slam” of five majors, was awarded honorary membership at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. … The U.S. Golf Association will award exemptions to the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open to the players who win the Mark H. McCormack medal as the leading amateur. That would be Patrick Cantlay (already eligible as the U.S. Amateur runner-up) and Lydia Ko, the 14-year-old from New Zealand who recently became the youngest winner of a tour event. … Valero has signed a six-year extension as the title sponsor of the Texas Open. The new deal takes the sponsorship through 2018. … The LPGA added another marketing partner Tuesday by signing Volvik, a Korean golf ball company.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Adam Scott is the only player from among the top 20 in the world who has yet to play a tournament this year.


FINAL WORD: “I fear we would be eating our own children if we went to two sets of rules.” - USGA president Glen Nager.

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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.

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.”