Stat attack!: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open review

By John AntoniniOctober 20, 2014, 3:27 am

Ben Martin’s first PGA Tour win at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. The third-year PGA Tour player finished 76th in the 2014 FedEx Cup standings, with three third-place finishes. Twice last season Martin led or shared the lead after 36 holes only to fall back on the weekend, with his third-round 71 at the RBC Heritage and his Saturday 73 at New Orleans dropping him from the top spot.

At TPC Summerlin, Martin used Saturday to his advantage, matching his career-best round with a 10-birdie 62 that jumped him from T-5 to the lead. He closed with a 68 Sunday to finish at 20-under 264, edging hard-charging Kevin Streelman by one stroke. Martin’s Saturday number was one of the best moving-day scores by a PGA Tour winner recent in recent years and one the best third-round scores the last 25 years in Las Vegas.

Lowest third-round scores by a PGA Tour winner: 2010-2014

 Score Player Tournament
 60 Carl Pettersson 2010 RBC Canadian Open
 61 Scott Piercy 2011 Reno-Tahoe Open
 62 Ben Martin 2014 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
 62 Jimmy Walker 2013 Open
 62 Nick Watney 2011 AT&T National
 62 Steve Stricker 2010 John Deere Classic

Best third-round scores in the Las Vegas Open: 1991-2014

 Score Player Year Finish
 59* Chip Beck 1991 (at Sunrise CC) T-3
 62* John Cook 1992 (at TPC Summerlin) Won
 62* Joel Edwards 2002 (at TPC Canyons) T-9
 62* Lee Janzen 2002 (at TPC Canyons) T-24
 62* Bob Estes 2002 (at Southern Highlands) MC
 62  Cameron Percy 2010 (at TPC Summerlin) T-2
 62 Ben Martin 2014 (at TPC Summerlin) Won
 62 Jimmy Walker 2014 (at TPC Summerlin) T-4

*Prior to 2004, the Las Vegas Open was a five-round tournament.

Memories in Vegas

What do Martin and Tiger Woods have in common? Like Martin, Woods got his first PGA Tour victory at Las Vegas, beating Davis Love III in a playoff in 1996. First-time winners weren’t uncommon in the 1990s, when the tournament was a five-round affair – Jim Furyk also hoisted his first trophy here in 1995 – but since the tournament went to four rounds (and became a fall series event), first-timers have been plentiful. Martin is the eighth player to make this event his first win in the last 11 years. Of that group, only Martin Laird, George McNeill and Troy Matteson have additional victories on the PGA Tour.

First-time winners on the PGA Tour at the Shriners: 2004-2014

 Year Player Career wins
 2014 Ben Martin 1
 2011 Kevin Na 1
 2009 Martin Laird 3
 2008 Marc Turnesa 1
 2007 George McNeill 2
 2006 Troy Matteson 2
 2005 Wes Short Jr. 1
 2004 Andre Stolz 1

Amateur hour

Martin was a U.S. Amateur finalist in 2009, losing in the final to Ben An at Southern Hills. He is the third U.S. Amateur runner-up since 2000 who has gone on to win on the PGA Tour. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider that only one U.S. Amateur champion since 2000 has won on Tour. (For comparison, five of the U.S. Amateur champs in the 1990s went on to win PGA Tour events. Only one runner-up in that time (Tom Scherrer) would win on Tour as a professional.)

U.S. Amateur finalists since 2000 with PGA Tour victories

 Player PGA Tour wins Amateur record
 Ben Martin 2014 Shriners Hospitals Open 2009 U.S. Amateur runner-up
 Michael Thompson 2013 Honda Classic 2007 U.S. Amateur runner-up
 Ryan Moore 3 wins, most recent 2013 CIMB Classic 2004 U.S. Amateur champion
 Hunter Mahan 6 wins, most recent 2014 Barclays 2002 U.S. Amateur runner-up

Return to prominence

Defending champion Webb Simpson made a valiant effort at a second straight win in Las Vegas, shooting 15-under 268 to finish T-4, five strokes back of Martin. He is one of just four Vegas winners in the last 25 years to finish in the top 10 the following year. No player has won twice in a row since Jim Furyk in 1998 and 1999.

Defending champs at Las Vegas who finished in the top 10: 1990-2014

 Player Victory year Following year
 Webb Simpson 2013 T-4, 2014
 Ryan Moore 2012 T-9, 2013
 Martin Laird 2009 T-2, 2010
 Jim Furyk 1998 Won, 1999

Simpson did shoot four rounds in the 60s at TPC Summerlin, giving him 13 such rounds in a row in Las Vegas. In addition to winning a year ago, he had four 60s in 2010 and finished with one in 2009. Simpson did not play the tournament in 2011 or 2012.

Webb Simpson’s career in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

 Year Finish Scores
 2014 T-4 69-65-67-68—269
 2013 Won 64-63-67-66—260
 2010 T-4 66-66-64-68—264
 2009 Missed cut 73-69—142

Wonderful weekend

Poor Kevin Streelman. With five birdies on the back nine Sunday, the former Duke star put pressure on Martin, before eventually finishing second, two strokes back of the winner. But anyone who was paying attention knew Streelman never had a chance. You see, Streelman shot an opening-round, even-par 71. No player with a round in the 70s has won at Las Vegas since Furyk in 1999. In fact, Streelman is the first player to finish second at the Shriners with a round in the 70s since Matt Kuchar in 2008. But Streelman’s weekend rounds are worth mentioning. His 63-65—128 are among the lowest scores at the Shriners on Saturday and Sunday.

Best final 36-hole scores at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: 2000-2014

 Player Year Scores Finish
 Rory Sabbatini 2001 63-64—127 T-2
 Kevin Streelman 2014 63-65—128 T-4
 Jason Day 2012 64-65—129 Fourth
 Cameron Percy 2010 62-67—129 T-2
 Ben Crane 2006 64-65—129 T-2
 David Frost 2004 67-62—129 T-7
 Rory Sabbatini 2002 64-65—129 T-5
 Jonathan Kaye 2000 67-62—129 T-3

Fabulous Finau

Tony Finau’s T-7 is also worth mentioning. The Tour graduate from Utah was making just his fifth PGA Tour start at Las Vegas. His first career top-10 finish came on the heels of a T-12 at the Open one week earlier. Finau is one of six players to finish in the top 20 in each of the first two tournaments of the 2014-15 season. Last year seven players accomplished this feat  - Robert Garrigus, J.J. Henry, Ryo Ishikawa, Will MacKenzie, Jeff Overton, Vijay Singh, and Jimmy Walker. Of that group, all but Henry qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Players with top 20 finishes at the first two events of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season

 Player Shriners
 Hideki Matsuyama T-3 T-10
 Martin Laird T-3 T-18
 Brooks Koepka T-8 T-4
 Hudson Swafford T-8 T-18
  Scott Brown T-12 T-10
 Tony Finau T-12 T-7
Getty Images

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.”