If You Change It They Will Come

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 7, 2005, 4:00 pm
Tournament prestige will always draw a popular crowd. That above all else will determine the number of quality players who enter a PGA Tour event.
 
After that, there are various other ways to draw the top-ranked players.
 
Tournament organizers can inflate their purse, they can align themselves with a golfing legend, and they can even offer up intriguing off-course options.
 
But give a player a great venue on which to compete and they most certainly guarantee themselves of getting the names they desire.
 
Vijay Singh and Ernie Els
Vijay Singh and Ernie Els are just two of the big names on hand this week due to the course change.
Most tournaments really treat us well, Vijay Singh said. For instance, New Orleans ' you couldnt ask for better treatment. But then, when you come to the golf course, its a night-and-day difference.
 
You make your schedule according to the golf course, as well. We love going to a great golf course and playing great golf courses. I think it brings the best out of good players.
 
And a good golf course seems to bring out the best players. Case in point: this weeks Booz Allen Classic.
 
For the past 18 years, the tournament has been contested at the TPC at Avenel in Potomac, Md. And for the past 18 years, the tournament has been struggling year-to-year to get the best players to come play.
 
So while the venue is undergoing an overhaul, Congressional Country Club has agreed to host the event for this year and this year only. Then its scheduled to return to a revamped Avenel.
 
And that is the single, solitary reason ' not the fact that it is preceding the U.S. Open this year ' why 16 of the top 25 players in the world are competing this week as opposed to one of 25 a year ago.
 
I think we've got a great field for Congressional, Singh said. When they went back to Avenel ' nobody wants to play Avenel.
 
Congressional has hosted this tournament seven times before, last doing so in 1986. It was also the site of the 1997 U.S. Open, won by Ernie Els, and the 1964 U.S. Open, won by Ken Venturi
 
Congressional (par-71, 7,232 yards) is a major-league venue and a major-league attraction. It also has a major-league list of past champions.
 
Six of the seven prior Booz Allen winners at Congressional currently have a major championship victory to their credit. The lone exception is Bill Glasson, who defeated Larry Mize and Corey Pavin in 1985. For that matter, during that same seven-year stretch, nine of the 12 players who finished runner-up are also major champions.
 
On the other hand, only five of the last 18 winners at Avenel are current major champions. That highlights the fact that Avenel isnt in the same championship-caliber category as is Congressional, and that the top-ranked players just arent coming the way they used to ' or are this year.
 
Keeping the major theme in mind, it should come as little surprise that a host of proven major winners are the leading candidates to add to Congressional's impressive list of champions.
 
Five for the Title
 
Ernie Els
No one in the field will have more positive feelings upon his return to Congressional than Els, who claimed his second U.S. Open title here eight years ago. Els has only twice competed in this event, and not since 2000. But past history in this tournament means very little considering the course change. Els has won three times outside of the U.S. this year, but it still seeking his first PGA Tour win of the season. Hes hoping his Congressional defense turns out better than his Memorial defense last week, when he tied for 45th.
 
Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen is looking for more than just a tune-up to next week's U.S. Open title defense.
Goosen always has to be considered a threat. But when its the middle of June and youre playing on a U.S. Open-style venue, he has to be considered among the short list of favorites. Goosen, like Els, has a pair of Open trophies on his mantle. And just like Els, he has nary a tour win this year. A win this week would be nice, but Goosen really wants to sharpen his game for next weeks title defense at Pinehurst. Goosen, who didnt compete in the 97 Open, has played in only two tournaments since tying for third at the Masters. He missed the cut at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship and tied for 11th at the BMW Championship on the European Tour.
 
Vijay Singh
Singh missed the cut at last weeks Memorial Tournament. Dont expect him to do it again this week. Singh hasnt missed back-to-back cuts on tour since 2001. How good has Singh been over the last three years? His two missed cuts this season equal his total over the last two seasons combined. Singh tied for 77th in the 97 U.S. Open, but that was 23 wins and three major victories ago. Singh said that while in his native Fiji, he didnt pick up a club for 10 days. That would explain his rounds of 77-74 at Muirfield. Expect those calluses to be hardened by the time he tees it up Thursday.
 
Phil Mickelson
Mickelson skipped last weeks Memorial to get in a few practice sessions at Pinehurst. And continuing his major routine, hell play this week to get into competitive form. Phil will be trying to reverse his recent trend of diminishing returns. Since his playoff victory at the BellSouth Classic, he has gradually been slipping down the leaderboard. But he still has only three finishes outside the top 25 this year, and he has yet to miss a cut. He tied for 43rd at Congressional in 97.
 
Adam Scott
Scott is the defending champion, having cruised to a four-stroke victory at Avenel a year ago, when the tournament was contested the week after the Open. While nearly all of the winners at Congressional are current major champions, that doesnt mean they had a major title on their resume at the time of their victory. Only John Mahaffey (1980) and Craig Stadler (1982) were major winners prior to their Booz Allen triumphs at Congressional. The other four ' Stadler, 1981; Fred Couples, 1983; Greg Norman, 1984; Norman, 1986 ' became major champions after their Congressional victories. Scott isnt a major champion yet, but he would seem to be a perfect fit in this latter category.
 
Playing Out the Front Nine
 
Four more players to keep an eye on
 
*Jim Furyk, whose decision to play this week is based solely on the change in venue. Furyk hasnt played this tournament in six years, but he couldnt pass up the opportunity to play Congressional. The 2003 U.S. Open champion, who tied for fifth here in 97, shot 64-68 over the weekend at Muirfield to earn his sixth top-10 of the season.
 
*Tom Lehman, who lost a heartbreaker at Congressional in 97. Eight years ago, Lehman led through three round of the U.S. Open, before eventually finishing third after plunking his approach shot into the water on the 71st hole. A win this week wouldnt exactly atone for that loss, but it would be some form of redemption ' and his first victory since 2000.
 
*Jeff Maggert, who played in the final twosome with Lehman in 97. Maggert shot 74 that Sunday to finish fourth. Few players perform better on difficult venues than does Maggert. He has eight career top-5 finishes in the majors, but he doesnt have a win of any kind since 1999.
 
*Stewart Cink, who also plays tough tracks well. Cink tied for 13th here in 97 as a tour rookie. If the course has any semblance to a U.S. Open venue, expect Cink, who has three top-10s at the Open, to compete.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Booz Allen Classic
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    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.”