Woods has high hopes about his game

By Doug FergusonAugust 4, 2010, 10:29 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125w

AKRON, Ohio – A two-hour window Wednesday provided a snapshot of a strange year for Tiger Woods.

The guy famous for sweeping dew off the grass with his crack-of-dawn practice rounds arrived shortly before lunch on the eve of the Bridgestone Invitational to play nine holes at Firestone. That’s not terribly unusual, for Woods knows Firestone as well as any other course, and it’s where he made history last year as the only player to win a PGA Tour event seven times on the same course.

One tee shot into his practice round, the siren sounded because of dangerous weather. 

He wound up playing only four holes.

This year has been anything but routine. Woods didn’t start until the Masters while coping with the fallout from his extramarital affairs. He has gone seven tournaments without winning, the longest drought at the start of any season since he turned pro.

And in comments that were veiled yet somewhat revealing, Woods said the distractions he faces in his personal life affect him as much during practice as they do during tournaments.

“I haven’t been able to practice as long as I normally have when I’ve been out here,” Woods said. “People have been wanting more of my time. I’ve had more things going on once I’m at a tournament site than I have in the past, and for different reasons. That’s obviously taken a little bit of a toll on my preparation.

“Things are starting to normalize,” he said. “And that’s been a good sign.”

Who wants more of his time? Woods didn’t elaborate.

He has refused to answer questions about his personal life. Notah Begay, one of his best friends, mentioned last month at a press conference that Woods is going through a divorce, which most have suspected.

That would be one thing that Woods couldn’t turn over to his business team to handle.

“It’s been difficult,” Woods said. “It’s been a trying time for a lot of people who are friends of mine and who know me. It’s been tough, no doubt.”

As for the golf? Woods believes it’s getting closer, and only he knows.

The results have not been impressive, especially considering the places he has been. This was supposed to be the year that Woods, with his 14 majors, made inroads into the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus. But he fell apart early in the final round at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open, and after opening with a 65 in easy conditions at St. Andrews, he was never a factor the rest of the week.

The culprit has been putting, and Woods attributes that to not getting the right speed.

He also attributed it to lack of practice.

“Just had to go back to basics and practice a little bit more,” Woods said. “I haven’t worked on my putting probably as much as I should have the last couple of years. So had to go back to that.”

Putting was his primary focus in the two weeks he has been at home in Florida since the British Open.

Why did he stop practicing as much in the first place?

“I haven’t had time,” he said. “I haven’t had as much time to practice overall, with the kids. Life has changed.”

Only players know how much time they really put into the game, although Woods brought attention to his preparations for the British Open when he flew home from a two-day charity event in Ireland for four days instead of staying over in Ireland or Scotland and practicing links golf ahead of one of his favorite majors.

Firestone should be a good gauge on his game, perhaps even more than St. Andrews.

Woods first played the tree-lined course as a teenager when he traveled through Ohio with his father. He made his debut in 1997 when it was the old World Series of Golf. In 11 appearances, he has seven victories and has never finished out of the top 5. Not even his record at Torrey Pines is that daunting.

It has been six years since Woods teed it up at Firestone without winning. He was a runner-up that year.

“I’ve always liked this type … golf courses like this where the shape is very simple,” Woods said. “It’s not target golf, and I’ve always liked that.”

The timing has rarely been so important.

Woods slipped to No. 9 in the Ryder Cup standings this week, giving him only two tournaments – the World Golf Championship this week and the PGA Championship next week – to get into the top eight and qualify for the U.S. team.

Asked if he would play in the Ryder Cup as a captain’s pick, Woods replied, “I’m planning on playing my way onto the team.”

Two more questions along the same line produced the same answer. It was Woods’ way of saying he’s not thinking about anything else but playing well enough to make the team, just like he doesn’t practice from drop zones, like he refused to practice out of the Church Pew bunkers at Oakmont before the U.S. Open.

Also at stake this week is his No. 1 ranking, which he has held the last five years. Phil Mickelson has had a chance to overtake him since the middle of May, but now Lee Westwood is in position to get to No. 1 by winning at Firestone.

“How I got here in the first place was by winning golf tournaments, and how I will sustain it is by winning golf tournaments,” Woods said. “Winning golf tournaments takes cares of a lot of things, and being No. 1 in one of them.”

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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.


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.”