Great debate: Arguing the Lexi ruling

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 3, 2017, 4:34 pm

The ruling that led to a four-stroke penalty for Lexi Thompson during the final round of the ANA Inspiration sparked debate that transcended the game. senior writers Rex Hoggard and Ryan Lavner were also fired up and went back and forth on email with differing opinions:

HOGGARD: Uncomfortable? Absolutely. Unfortunate? Without a doubt. Avoidable? No, at least not under the current rules. The social universe can scream all they want about how stupid golf is to penalize Lexi Thompson on Sunday, but the fact is she violated a rule and paid the price for it regardless of who reported the infraction.

LAVNER: No one is debating whether a rule was broken here. She clearly played from an incorrect spot. That’s a two-shot penalty. Fine. Why people are (rightfully) fired up is simple: Because TV viewers should not be allowed to determine the outcome of an event – especially a day late. 

HOGGARD: So the alternative to your point is that if a rules official or fellow competitor sees a violation that’s fine, but if someone watching at home sees a violation (a clear violation) that’s just the luck of the draw? Isn’t the point to assure a fair competition, regardless of how an infraction is discovered?

LAVNER: So, if we’re trying to assure a fair competition, regardless of how it was discovered, you’d be OK with armchair officials phoning in missed holding calls in football and blocking charges in basketball and pitches that actually painted the black? Of course not. In those sports, only an official is allowed to call penalties. It should be the same way in golf. Put an official in charge of monitoring the TV feed. If he spots an infraction, there’s a penalty. If he misses it, well, that’s sports, and there are good breaks and bad. Common sense. Keep the viewers out of it. 

HOGGARD: Other sports don’t have 144 competitors spread out over acres of land on a sprawling playing field. Other sports don’t call penalties on themselves. Other sports (with the exception of cricket) don’t go from dawn to dusk over four days. Golf is not like other sports. Also, officials didn’t just take Joe Viewer’s word for it and dole out penalty strokes. They reviewed the footage, countless times we would imagine, before they penalized Thompson. This is no different, for example, than an official asking a fan where a shot went out of bounds or crossed into a hazard to assure the correct drop is taken. How is this different?

LAVNER: Because those aren’t infractions. In the situation you described, rules officials are gathering as much data as possible to make a decision that doesn’t grind pace of play to a halt. The Lexi case is yet another example of how the Rules allow casual fans to play “gotcha!”. Clearly the USGA and R&A have realized this is unfair – that’s why there is a new “reasonable judgment standard” in the proposed rules changes so players aren’t subjected to second-guessing. In 2019, if those changes are approved, Lexi would not have received the second two-shot penalty. 

HOGGARD: And those changes will be a much-needed and welcome adjustment to the golf landscape, but that doesn’t change the reality now. Under the current rules, Thompson deserved her penalty strokes, whether it came from a rules official standing over her shoulder on Saturday, a fellow competitor or a random fan watching at home. This wasn’t a “gotcha” moment. It was the correct execution of the current rules. The alternative is a victory that is overshadowed by an obvious infraction.

LAVNER: Um, that’s not much better than what we now have – an overshadowed major winner, So Yeon Ryu. Here’s guessing video review will soar to the top of the list of priorities for golf’s governing bodies before the next wave of rules changes. (You and I can both agree it’s more significant than the height a player takes a drop.) Video review is beginning to affect more and more big events. Golf deserves a common-sense solution. 

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x