Punch Shot: Rules change you like; change still needed

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 1, 2017, 12:40 pm

The USGA and R&A revealed proposed changes to the Rules of Golf, which will go into effect in 2019. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with the one proposed change they most like, and one they would like to see added to the list.


MOST LIKED: The proposed change to the Rules of Golf that will likely make the biggest impact on the game is probably not the alteration that will draw the most attention. If, for example, the rule is changed to allow the use of distance-measuring devices, that would likely draw plenty of attention at the professional level. But if an average recreational golfer isn't already using a distance-measuring device, he probably won’t be inclined to start. This makes the proposed rule that would allow for a drop, albeit with a two-stroke penalty, outside of a bunker for an unplayable ball the most intriguing. Some will still swing away hoping for a miracle shot out of the lip of a bunker, but the change would mercifully give players an option and also speed up the game.

STILL NEEDED: Where the USGA and R&A seemed to have missed an opportunity, however, is with the overly penal rule relating to stroke-and-distance for shots hit out of bounds. Although there are plenty of reasons why the rules makers decided not to dial back the stroke-and-distance penalty, allowing a wayward player to simply take a drop, with a one-stroke penalty, where their golf ball crossed the OB boundary would speed up play, avoid confusion and provide a more even-handed outcome for one of the most common rule violations.


MOST LIKED: The best rule change? Caddies will no longer be allowed to line up players before a shot. It’s bewildering this was ever allowed. Alignment should be a fundamental skill, like squaring the club face at impact. If you’re going to allow a caddie to be an alignment aid, why not allow players to drop sticks at their feet, parallel to the intended paths of their shots? Aim is a fairly essential skill to test in any sport.

STILL NEEDED: What rule still needs to be changed? How about no longer requiring players to be responsible for their own scorecards in instances where tournament committees are already keeping score for them? How ridiculous is it to be disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard in this digital age if there’s a walking scorekeeper already doing the job. If time-honored traditions are that important, let’s go back to gutta percha balls.  


MOST LIKED: The best proposed change is allowing players to tap down spike marks on the greens. Having stood on many 18th greens after tournaments, it’s remarkable that players can actually hole putts on surfaces that are so chewed up after 156 players walked on them for six consecutive days. It never seemed fair. Late Sunday afternoon, a 5-foot putt can become a game of pinball, as the ball ricochets off spike marks and maybe, just maybe, tumbles into the cup. The new rule takes out the guesswork.

STILL NEEDED: As for the rule that still needs changing, let’s eliminate any scorecard-related penalties. This is a rules “modernization,” after all. What is more antiquated than writing your fellow playing competitor’s score on a scorecard, when there are various technologies, in particular ShotLink, that can do it for them? Afterward, players can review their card and sign off on it. It’s 2017. Take out the user error.


MOST LIKED: At last, we can put the images of Steve Elkington and Colin Montgomerie putting across corrugated cardboard at Riviera behind us. The notion that ball marks on the green could be repaired, while spike marks could not, has always seemed curious. Even as amateurs and professionals alike have continued to transition away from metal spikes, an errant mark at the wrong time still proves problematic today – look no further than Tyrrell Hatton’s bouncing putt Sunday on the 71st hole of the Honda Classic. This certainly won’t help pace of play, but it removes the unnecessary and unwanted scenario where a friendly match or professional tournament is decided by a piece of dirt sticking up.

STILL NEEDED: After all of these proposed rule changes, why do we still face the prospect of playing out of a divot after a well-placed tee shot into the middle of the fairway? Golf has always abided by the notion of “rub of the green,” but as steps are being taken to remove some of that factor with these rule changes, the divot shot still needs to be addressed. Whether sitting in a hole, buried in sand or up against the seam of replaced sod, players shouldn’t incur a penalty just because someone before them hit it from the exact same spot. Use the language pertaining to embedded balls to offer players an avenue for free relief when the rub of the fairway doesn’t go their way. It’s an easy fix, and one that will make the game more fair going forward.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."