Hoch a Throwback to the Button-Down Pro
A personal aside here: Hoch is the only player to invite me to a social gathering in 20 years of covering golf. That may be because of Sally. But it says a lot about the Hochs - that they don't socialize with the stars alone when it comes to making out the Christmas party invitations. I have known several golfers more intimately than him, have worked with a few more closely, but he alone has gone out of his way to make out the invitation list with my name on it.
Hoch won at Greensboro last week. On Tuesday he had made the papers with an observation about the length of the rough, down three inches from what it normally is. 'Hoch's whining again,' became the headlines. He always makes the headlines, you see. Partly, it must be admitted, because he's made another rash-but-honest statement about this or that.
'I'm not real easy to know,' Hoch said. 'I'm not an open book by any means.'
So much of his professional life has been headline stuff. It doesn't have to be the things he says. The things he does tend to be larger than life. He missed a 30-inch putt in overtime at the 1989 Masters when a bullseye would have won it for him. Nick Faldo wriggled off the hook and won on the very next hole.
A year later, Hoch had forgotten it. 'Sometimes, something like this makes you a better person in the long run,' he said, sighing at the thought of it.
'I say, 'Look, golf is not everything in life.' Sure, it was a big tournament, and it might have set me up for life. But then again, it might have made me complacent. I've just got to feel that it happened, in the long run, for the good.
'I've got to feel that it must have been in my best interest that it didn't happen.'
The mind strains to figure what 'the best interest' could be, but at any rate, it helped him through an extremely rough moment. Three weeks later, he won Las Vegas. And in a development that stunned just about every one, he gave $100,000 of his winner's check to the Arnold Palmer children's hospital in Orlando for the work the staff did a couple of year's earlier while treating then 2 ?-year-old Cameron for a bone infection. You just never can tell.
The Hochs were close friends with, of all people, the late Payne Stewart and his wife Tracey. Payne, a free spirit who socially was the exact opposite of Hoch, took the loss to Faldo in the Masters very hard. Forever etched in the memory is Stewart screaming at a television set in the Augusta lockerroom, 'Come on Hawtch! Come on Hawtch!' 'Hawtch' was the bastardization of Hoch, something peculiarly Payne-like.
It was the Hochs who persuaded the Stewarts to make their home in Orlando. And it was Stewart that denied Hoch a chance for at least a couple more victories. Hoch was tied for the lead in 1983 entering the final round at Disney and wound up losing by three to Stewart. And who could forget that disastrous final day in Houston in 1995 when Hoch led by seven with seven holes remaining - and lost to Stewart in a playoff.
His lack of appreciation has gone transcontinental - he called St. Andrews a 'piece of mess' and refused to play in the British Open in the mid-1990s. Even Sally was taken aback by that one - 'He shouldn't have said it,' she said. 'He's off-the-cuff.' But say it Hoch did, explaining later that the cold weather is not to his liking and the course is played opposite the way early golfers intended. Never mind that Lee Westwood said much the same thing a few years later.
Hoch can be extremely likeable, but he can be perplexing when quotes appear with his name attached. He speaks his piece, but then often when the article appears, he disavows saying it. Writers give him plenty of cause for headache, especially the Brit tabloids who take a scrap of truth and twist it into a bible of untruths. But he himself can at times be baffling.
The majority of those incidents, though, occurred 10 or 15 years earlier. Time heals wounds and it heals personalities. Scott Hoch is not who he was 10 years ago when he was 35. His give-and-take with the media at the Greensboro victory was punctuated with laughter. The rough, he kidded after it was over, was perfect. It was an advantage, actually, having rough that was shorter.
'I consider myself a pretty good iron player out of the rough, as long as it is not too thick - even out of the rough this week,' said Hoch.
'Obviously I was barking a little bit earlier, but you know, good play can overcome a lot of things.'
What are your impressions of Scott Hoch's career?
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Scott Hoch comments on his GGCC win
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
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
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
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.
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
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.”