Fantasy Fact Pack: Sony Open

By Will GrayJanuary 10, 2012, 9:28 pm

The Sony Open marks the first full-field event of 2012 and, for the handful of players completing the second leg of their Hawaiian tour, a stark contrast in course layouts. Gone are the enormous greens and wide fairways of Kapalua, and in their place is a shorter course that will be more demanding both off the tee and into the green. Here is a look inside the numbers to see which players may contend for the title this weekend and help your Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge team in the process:

Drive for Dough: While Kapalua’s wide, rolling fairways offered players forgiving targets during the Hyundai TOC, finding the fairway off the tee at Waialae this week will be of greater importance. The Sony Open routinely ranks among the more difficult events on Tour for driving accuracy, but the players in contention on Sunday are typically those who are able to control their tee shots all week long. Defending champion Mark Wilson hit 41/56 fairways last year en route to the title, and eight of the top 15 in fairways hit for the week also ended up in the top 12 on the final leaderboard. With accuracy paying dividends, a consistent ball-striker like Brian Gay and former champions Zach Johnson (2009) and Jerry Kelly (2002) should merit consideration this week, each having finished the 2011 season in the top 10 overall in fairway percentage.

Power Rankings: Top 10 favorites at Waialae

Aim Small, Miss Small: Once again in contrast to what players saw at the Hyundai TOC, the greens at the Sony Open are some of the smaller targets players will encounter this season. As a result, Webb Simpson and John Senden will be two Group 1 players to consider, as both finished the 2011 season in the top 10 in greens in regulation. Another important statistic for a course with smaller greens will be proximity to hole, a category where Group 3 player and 2007 Sony Open champion Paul Goydos finished second on Tour during the 2011 season. An accurate player off the tee as well as from the fairway, Goydos also finished 15th overall last year in driving accuracy, and an area where he struggled in 2011 (par-5 performance) will likely not be a large factor on a course with only two par-5s.

Rookie Adjustment: This week, 24 players – including notable names like Erik Compton and Bud Cauley  – will tee it up in the first event of their rookie season on the PGA Tour. When making your picks this week, though, these may be players to steer clear of as rookies tend to struggle in their first Sony Open. In 2011, Chris Kirk (T-30) had the best finish among the 27 rookies in the field, and Matt Weibring is the only player in the last three years to notch a top-10 in his rookie debut (T-8 in 2009).

Friendly Confines: Several players in this week’s field feel quite comfortable walking the fairways of Waialae CC. Despite a poor showing in 2011, Group 2 player Charles Howell III has finished in the top 5 four times since 2005 and has amassed an impressive 68.06 stroke average at this event in 10 career starts. Similarly, Steve Marino has top-10 finishes in each of his last three Sony Open appearances, including a runner-up last year. David Toms is another player very familiar with this event, as he will look to rebound from a poor start at the Hyundai TOC on a course where he won in 2006 and finished runner-up in 2009. And although he has not played a full season on the PGA Tour since 2008, Shigeki Maruyama has played every Sony Open since 1999 and has four top-10 finishes in that stretch. A streaky player who knows the course very well and led going into last year’s 36-hole Sunday finale, Maruyama may be a player to target if you feel like gambling a bit with your Group 4 selection.

Injury Report: As Rex Hoggard reported, Lucas Glover plans to play in this week’s event after a paddle-boarding injury forced him to withdraw from the Hyundai TOC. Glover, seeking to play a busy schedule in 2012 in hopes of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team, should have an easier time on the flat terrain at Waialae than last week’s hilly venue. Nevertheless, those looking to use him as their Group 2 player should check back for updates before entries close Thursday morning should Glover decide not to play. (Update: Glover has withdrawn from this week's event.) In other injury news, Cameron Beckman will be making his first start since withdrawing from the McGladrey Classic in October with a back injury and Chad Collins will play on Tour for the first time since June when fractured ribs cut short his 2011 season.

Sleeper Alert: On a shorter course where accuracy is at a premium, a name to watch this week is Chad Campbell. Campbell has average length off the tee, a factor that will not hurt him at Waialae as much as it might elsewhere. His strengths, though, will be highlighted – top-10 finishes in both greens in regulation and proximity to hole in 2011.  In fact, Campbell finished first overall last year in GIR from 150-175 yards, and fifth overall from 175-200 yards, distances that will be emphasized this week on a course with several shorter holes.  In addition to favorable stats, Campbell also has a strong track record in this event, with four finishes inside the top 15, including a runner-up in 2006.  His is a name that may emerge from Group 3 to contend over the weekend; at the very least, hopefully he does not consider his “sleeper” status as a reason to stay in bed a few extra minutes as we saw with last week's sleeper.

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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 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.”