Love It or Loathe It Shes a Pro Now

By George WhiteOctober 5, 2005, 4:00 pm
There were no grave pronouncements to start her new life ' no Hello world! a la Tiger Woods. Michelle Wies first words as the latest professional golfer were, I want to thank everyone for coming today. I mean, I know its not that easy to come to Hawaii.
 
So, she isnt a polished public speaker. The giggles, the ums, you knows and I means sounded exactly a 15-year-old ' just days shy of being 16 ' would say if she were suddenly thrust in front of a highly inquisitive world.
 
That doesnt matter, though. Michelle Wie needs only to be a polished professional golfer. Along the way, she showed signs of being a philanthropist ' she announced that her first gift would be one of $500,000 to the victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes. As an American citizen, I felt it was my duty, she said.
 
This day has been a long time coming for her. From the first time I grabbed a golf club, I knew that, you know, I would do it for the rest of my life, and I loved it, she said. But the decision really came down to the last couple of months ' I felt really ready, I felt mature enough, I felt comfortable enough out there.
 
Her decision to turn professional has polarized an entire world of golf fans. Some are ardently in her corner, others are adamantly against her. Those who regularly peek at my rants know that I am among those who think she should do whatever she thinks appropriate.
 
However, neither I, nor those who think that this is a terrible mistake, matter too much in the grand scheme of things. The opinions that really matter are the professional players, those who have been down this path before and who will be sharing a professional platform with Wie. Here are their views, collected over the course of two years:
 
ANNIKA SORENSTAM ' Shes impressive. Shes very talented. She hits the ball a long way. Shes very mature in the golf course. I love her golf swing. The potential is there in the future ... Shes so young, she has many years ahead of her that shes going in the right direction and I think shell be good for the future of womens golf.
 
JOHN DALY - My only concern is that she is going to be burnt out before she gets to maybe the peak that she wants to get to. I think most of the guys on tour were really rooting for her at the Public Links. I know I was. It would be cool to see her play in the Masters, but my concern for her is that she is still a baby. She is only 15 years old and she has got a lot of other things that she needs to learn in life as well; the biggest concern that I see is that you just do not want to burn that talent out before she reaches her peak. Like everybody else does, we just wish her the best and we love watching her play golf. She is phenomenal.
 
MEG MALLON: You just don't know what is going to happen down the road. I love that she's 15 and she has that goal (to eventually play the mens tour). Why not? Good for her, I hope it's her goal. It sounds like it is. So if that's what she wants to do then, that's absolutely wonderful. I hope she gets the opportunity to do that.
 
ERNIE ELS ' I think we've got a different person here. I think from when she was 13, she wanted to play out here on the PGA Tour, and I think to make a difference in life, and that's what she's after, to make a difference. She wants to be different and she definitely is going to be different if she can get to her goals.
 
I don't think you should stand in her way. I think her dad and her mom are doing what they feel best for Michelle, and that's to let her go and do what she wants to do. Her dream is to play out here with us. I think at the end of the day, Michelle probably if she wants to play on (the mens) tour, when she gets old enough will have to go through tour school, get through that. She'll be very welcome on tour. She will definitely get every sponsor exemption she asks for.
 
JIM FURYK: (Answering a question whether she would be taking someones spot in the field) Well, see, I have a problem with that argument in that it's a sponsor's spot. It's not really their spot. ESPN asked me a question yesterday, was I surprised that she was in the field again this year. And I said, Hey, if anyone was going to have a surprise, it would have been last year. After the attention she had gained and the notoriety that she had gained and the attention the tournament (Sony Open) gained probably not only nationwide but worldwide, it was a no-brainer. You just expected that she would be in the field again because it was such good publicity and such a good thing for this golf tournament. I would expect that she would be here.
 
Will it bother some players if she got an exemption somewhere else? I'm sure it would. I'm not one of those people.
 
CRISTIE KERR: She's so young, and she's so talented and it's really not a normal situation that somebody that young would be that good, and, in a sense tournament tested. I just hope she wants to play on our tour because we really need her and she can bring in so many new sponsors and fans. And in a sense, not to discredit Annika - Annika does an amazing job - but sponsors look at certain people differently. For her (Wie), she's just got this aura around her that makes people want to pay attention and Annika has done that for a lot a lot of years. But people are always looking for something new and fresh and she's it right now.
 
PHIL MICKELSON ' Well, five years from now, she is going to be 20, which is still so young and she has such a long career ahead of her. I do not care if she plays in one of these things tomorrow or in a few years from now. She is such an incredible talent that her chance to play in these will be for years and her chances to play in big events, whether it is mens tour events, whether it is womens tour events, will be for many, many years. So I guess what I am saying is there is no rush. To be only 15, it is just incredible to be playing the way she is.
 
TOM LEHMAN: I think there's a great deal of respect for her talent. I think she proved to everybody last year (at the Sony Open) that being that she lives here, that she deserves a spot in the field. I think everybody pulls for her. I think that's really probably the most important thing. I think everybody out here is pulling for her. She doesn't step on anybody's toes. She's respectful. I think people respect her talent as well.
 
DAVID TOMS: I think it's obviously good for the tournament. I mean, there's a reason that she's here. I've been watching her lately. She's played extremely well. You know, I'm for it if every tournament wants to do what's best for that tournament, and the strongest field they can possibly have, the notoriety that they can have. I don't have any problem with it whatsoever, and I wish her well. She's obviously a great talent, and she'll add a buzz to this tournament that otherwise wouldn't be here. I mean, she's as nice as can be.
 
PAUL AZINGER: She's phenomenal. There's no shame in losing to her. We were talking about it today (at the Sony Open) on 17. One guy in my group was 5-over with two to go and he birdied the last two holes, and Ted Purdy saw me the other day, and was grinding not to let Michelle beat him. I said, No shame to lose to go that girl. She's awesome. She hits it like a man.
 
JILL McGILL: She's proven that she can compete with the best women golfers in the world, and if she feels as though her goal is to play against the men and play on the PGA Tour, who am I to say no? If that's what you want to do, I wish her the best of luck. I hope she does accomplish it, because I think that she does nothing but good things not only for the women, but also for the men. I think it draws more attention to them. I think it draws a lot of attention to our tour.
 
And I get a little tired of people saying, Oh, you know, her aspirations are too high. I mean, whatever your goals are, I think you should set them and you should go for them. She stated what they are and I think she's working towards that. You can't take that away from her.
 
Not every pro golfer agrees that she is doing the right thing, of course. And goodness knows, not all the great unwashed public believe she is correct, either. But I say let her do her thing. She is ready physically. If she is ready mentally, it should be quite a ride over the next 30 years.
 

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 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.

Amen.

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.”