Viewer who saw Villegas infraction tried to help

By Doug FergusonJanuary 9, 2011, 2:58 am

Hyundai Tournament of ChampionsKAPALUA, Hawaii – Dave Andrews says he is not a snitch.

He’s not an expert on the rules of golf, either.

Andrews is a self-described golf nut who plays about 150 rounds a year. He happened to be watching the opening round of the Tournament of Champions with a couple of friends in Daytona Beach, Fla., when they saw Camilo Villegas flick away some loose pieces of grass as his ball was rolling down a slope back toward his divot on the 15th hole at Kapalua.

Something didn’t look right, and so began an inquiry that made its way across the Pacific.

“I guess it was me who caused all this uproar,” Andrews said by phone Saturday.

Andrews knows enough of the rules from the golf he plays, including club competitions in New Hampshire. But he doesn’t keep a copy of the rules book with him, so when one of his friends thought Villegas had done something wrong, they went to the USGA’s website and found Rule 23-1: “When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed.”

“By then, he probably had a half-hour left to play before he signs his card,” Andrews said.

A television viewer calling in an apparent rules violation is nothing new, and neither is the outrage that follows over a fan being allowed to report a violation. What was unique about this case was instead of a phone call, the inquiry was through Twitter.

The PGA Tour doesn’t mind fans contacting them, although rules official Jon Brendle said 80 percent of the “tons of calls we get” turn out to be nothing. Even so, the tour’s job is to protect the field, and if there’s a violation pointed out by anyone – another player, spectator or someone in front of the TV – the officials check it out.

Comparisons with the NBA or NFL are pointless because in golf, the player is responsible for his or her own penalties.

“Anytime a call comes in, we’ve always gone on it,” Brendle said. “I have to react. That’s my job. That’s what the game is all about – if you break a rule, it’s all about the penalty. The sad thing is if the call comes in after the fact. Why didn’t you call in earlier so at least you can save the guy from disqualification?”

In most cases – Villegas was no different – the violation is learned after players sign their card and they are disqualified for signing for an incorrect score.

Andrews gave it his best shot.

He didn’t know who to call, and he’s not alone in that. Bubba Watson and Ian Poulter were among players who said they wouldn’t know who to call if they saw an infraction. Andrews went to Twitter, sending tweets about what he saw to the PGA Tour (including its website producer) and Golf Channel. He also found a comment page on the tour’s website.

Andrews, who spent 30 years as a television reporter, has written a golf novel and does some freelance writing for a blog. He contacted another blogger, Ryan Ballengee, who had not seen the incident. Ballengee went to his DVR, agreed with Andrews on the violation, and sent an e-mail to John Bush, the PGA Tour media official at Kapalua.

By this time, the round was over and Villegas had long signed his card.

“When I wrote in, it was with the best of intentions,” Andrews said. “I’m no stickler on the rules. I was stunned that nobody had seen it before and decided to write in a tweet. I though the Golf Channel would have seen it, because they showed a replay. I guess I can understand how it does slip someone’s attention.”

Villegas handled the disqualification with grace, just as Andrews handled the comments that followed. He saw plenty of activity on Twitter calling him a snitch.

Poulter tweeted: “An armchair official tweeted in to get Camilo DQ, what is wrong with people have they got nothing better to do.” He followed that with: “Yes, the rules r the rules it was a mistake on Camilo’s behalf, he didn’t know he had done wrong, but people calling in, no 1 likes a snitch.”

The broader issue is how well players know their own rules.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, probably a 5,” Rocco Mediate said. “And that’s being nice.”

Poulter is emotional when it comes to the rules because he was penalized in Hong Kong last year in a playoff when the ball slipped from his hand and nudged his ball marker.

“It’s harsh,” he said. “It’s another one of those rules that has come again which someone had to phone in – a tweet that came in, however it works. Whether a phone in or a tweet, it’s people sitting at home with a rules book out who have nothing better to do.”

Still, Poulter acknowledged that Villegas “infringed on the rules, so he’s been penalized.”

The incident has renewed talk of eliminating the scorecard rule, and simply assessing the two-stroke penalty before the close of competition. That would require a change by the governing bodies.

Brendle remembers the first time he handled a TV viewer reporting an infraction, in 1991 at Doral. Paul Azinger shot a 65 in the second round, one off the lead, when he was disqualified because of a shot he played in the opening round. Standing inside a hazard, he pawed with his left foot to get a solid stance and play his approach into the 18th.

A club pro in Colorado had been working that day, taped the coverage and was watching the next morning when he saw the violation of Rule 13-4 (moving a loose impediment in a hazard—rocks had shifted).

“It was not a bad decision, it was the correct decision,” Azinger said that day. “It’s just hard to swallow.”

Whether it’s a phone call or Twitter, that much hasn’t changed.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.