Stat attack!: OHL Classic at Mayakoba preview

By John AntoniniNovember 11, 2014, 7:44 pm

This week’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba is the final event of the year on the PGA Tour, but not the final event of the season. That incongruity comes thanks to the wraparound schedule the Tour implemented last year. What we have this week is the finish to the Fall Series – and so far during the North American portion, youngsters have dominated. All four domestic winners are in their 20s, led by 26-year-old Nick Taylor (shown), who won last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi. 

PGA Tour Fall Series winners in 2014-15

 Winner Tournament Age Career wins
 Sang-Moon Bae Open 28 2
 Ben Martin  Shriners Las Vegas  27 1
 Robert Streb  McGladrey Classic 27 1
 Ryan Moore  CIMB Classic 31 4
 Bubba Watson  WGC-HSBC Champions 36 7
Nick Taylor  Sanderson Farms 26 1

Martin, Streb and Taylor are all playing at Mayakoba this week and are looking to become the first player to win two Fall Series events in the same year. Of the three, only Martin has experience in Mexico, having finished T31 a year ago. Streb and Taylor are making their tournament debuts.

Similarity scores

If Martin, Streb and Taylor don’t have the pedigree to win the OHL Classic, who does? How about this pair of young veterans who share a similar name as well as a penchant for playing well south of the border? Chris Stroud and Brian Stuard – or is that Chris Stuard and Brian Stroud? – have combined for five top-five finishes in this event. Both average below 70 strokes per round in the tournament, with Stuard’s 67.25 average the lowest among players with eight or more rounds in the event. Stroud, who has played Mayakoba all seven years of its existence, is sixth in scoring average among players with 20 or more rounds in the event.

Career record at the OHL Classic of Brian Stroud and Chris Stuard

 Player 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
 Chris Stroud MC T-12 T-60 T-40 4 T-5 T-3
 Brian Stuard       T-2     2

Lowest career scoring average at the OHL Classic: Minimum eight rounds

 Player Rounds  Scoring avg.
 Brian Stuard 8 67.25
 Matt Kuchar 8 67.88
 Jason Bohn 8 68.00
 David Toms 8 68.13
 Robert Appleby 8 68.13
John Huh 8 68.13

Lowest career scoring average at the OHL Classic: Minimum 20 rounds

 Player Rounds Scoring avg.
 Charles Howell III 20 68.90
 J.J. Henry 20 68.90
 Jarrod Lyle 20 68.90
 Brian Gay 24 68.96
 Briny Baird 24 68.96
 Chris Stroud 26 69.04

Lucky seven

Stroud has played the Mayakoba Classic every year, but because he missed the cut in the premiere event in 2007, he doesn’t have the distinction of playing the weekend every year. That honor goes to a pair of veterans – Kevin Stadler and Cameron Beckman. They are among five players in this year’s field who have played Mayakoba at least five times and never missed the cut.

Most starts at the OHL Classic without missing the cut*

 Player Starts Best finish
 Kevin Stadler 7 T-9 in 2010
 Cameron Beckman 7 Won in 2010
 John Merrick 6 T-3 in 2008
 Charles Howell III 5

T-6 in 2013

 J.J. Henry 5 Second in 2009

*Among players in the 2014 field.

Split seasons

When Harris English beat Stuard by four strokes a year ago, he did so on the strength of his putting. He ranked first in the field in putts per GIR and fifth in total putts with 108. He was especially good with the flatstick in Round 2, when his nine-birdie, no-bogey 62 was the week’s best score.

It was part of a stretch during which English could do no wrong. He made the cut in his first 13 starts of the 2013-14 season. The victory in Mexico was the highlight of a run that included six top-10 finishes, including a solo fourth at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

His cut streak ended at the Masters and his year hasn’t been gratifying since. English has made just eight cuts in 18 starts, with one top-10 finish, a T-7 at the Travelers Championship.

From the Masters to date, English’s scoring average has risen by more than a stroke and a half, and his GIR percentage has dropped from 73 percent to 64 percent. His putts per GIR has risen from 1.754 to 1.791.

Putting some English on it: Harris English’s up-and-down season

 Time frame Starts Cuts made Top 10s Money Scor. avg. GIR Putts per GIR
 October 2013-
 March 2014
13 13 6 $2,535,303 69.17 73.03% 1.754
 April 2014-
 November 2014
18 8 1 516,319 70.90 64.31 1.791

Long hitters need not apply

PGA Tour stats were not available from the OHL Classic at Mayakoba prior to 2012, but it’s apparent when looking at the past winners that length off the tee is not a requirement for success. Until English’s win a year ago, the Mayakoba champion had never finished in the top 100 in driving distance that season. Two past champs – Brian Gay in 2008 and Fred Funk in 2007 – were in the bottom five in distance during the year they won at Mayakoba.

The Mayakoba winner’s season rank in driving distance

 Year Winner Season driving distance (rank)
 2013 Harris English 299.2 (26)
 2012 John Huh 288.3 (113)
 2011 Johnson Wagner 282.2 (160)
 2010 Cameron Beckman 285.7 (115)
 2009 Mark Wilson 284.3 (118)
 2008 Brian Gay 270.5 (196)
 2007 Fred Funk 271.8 (193)

One final thought: What a difference a year makes for Robert Streb. The McGladrey Classic champion is leading the FedEx Cup race and is the only player to have three top-10 finishes in the short season. Last year, Streb earned just 18 FedEx Cup points during the Fall Series and was T-160 at the year-end hiatus.

If you haven't already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc

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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.”