A Good Walk Not Spoiled

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 10, 2008, 5:00 pm
In Backspin, GolfChannel.com takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf ' with a spin.

WHAT AN ADVENTURE: The PGA Tours 2008 season wrapped up Sunday at Disney and so did D.J. Gregorys magical run or walk. Gregory made it to every Tour stop this year, walking every course.
Backspin Thats nearly 1,000 miles and well over 3,000 holes. If that doesnt impress you, consider that Gregory suffers from cerebral palsy and every step he takes is done so with considerable labor. The 30-year-old may have fallen, by his count, 29 times over the course of the year, but his inspiration was 10 fold that number.

PHIL THE FLIRT: Phil Mickelson, in China for the European Tours season-opening HSBC Champions, spoke with reporters early in the week about possibly joining the tour, mainly due to the lure of the cash being thrown around for the Race to Dubai.
Backspin While Mickelson ultimately said he would pass on becoming a member this season, he did intimate the chances are good for him doing so in the future. Said Mickelson: I think the biggest growth opportunity for the game of golf is internationally. Perhaps those are his sponsors talking, who would no doubt like him to spread their 'global footprint,' especially considering that his big four ' Barclays, Callaway Golf, accounting company KPMG and Exxon Mobile ' are trying to raise their profile all over the world. This, and because Phil also just likes to talk a lot.

AND THEY'RE OFF!: One week after the conclusion of their 2008 season, the European Tour commenced their 2009 edition with the HSBC Champions in China. Sergio Garcia survived five days worth of play, brought on by repeated inclement weather. In the process, the Spaniard passed Mickelson for No. 2 in the world.

Backspin This is the most anticipated season in tour history ' and not just because they have a fancy new logo. The Race to Dubai should provide year-long drama (most of the year, anyway). One of the big problems the tour has faced over recent years is a lack of big name players competing and winning. Garcia got the revitalized tour off to a great start ' even if its not really 2009 yet.

THAT'S A WRAP: The PGA Tour's Fall Series came to a close with Davis Love III winning the season-ending Children's Miracle Network Classic. Love closed with a bogey-free 8-under 64 to hold off Tommy Gainey by a single stroke.
Backspin It was strange to see a Hall of Fame candidate grinding it out during the Fall Series, but thats what Love said he needed to do. After undergoing ankle surgery 13 months ago, Love said the Fall Series was his chance to get back into a good rhythm ' and also to secure his card for the 2009 season. He did that and more. By securing his 20th Tour title, he is now a life-time member. As for runner-up Gainey, the tight finish almost became the biggest big break of his life. Needing a win to keep his card, he left nothing out on the course, making six back-nine birdies. And even though he fell short, the $496,800 second-place check was good enough to get him conditional status on tour for next season.

CART PATH ONLY: Erik Compton, granted the use of a golf cart for this past weeks event at Disney, made the cut before eventually settling into a tie for 60th.
Backspin Compton finished the event with a triple bogey-8 on the 72nd hole, but that was probably the only disappointment for the young man. Most golf fans are by now familiar with the fact that Compton is just six months removed from his second heart transplant and is in the midst of trying to make his way back to the PGA Tour. Admittedly emotionally and physically drained, Compton has little time for rest as he makes his way to the second stage of Q-School later this week.

CHANGES AT AUGUSTA!: Chairman Billy Payne announced this past week that there were changes being made at Augusta National. Turns out the changes were very minor, trimming just 10 yards from the course length.
Backspin Like it does every year, the course is evaluated and adjustments are made to ensure what the club believes will make for the best possible playing conditions. Most of the changes, albeit minor, were mainly made to give the club flexibility to move the tees in case of bad weather conditions. Recall that Trevor Immelman ' the winner this year ' shot a final-round 75 in very windy conditions.

PGA TOUR, HERE WE COME: The Nationwide Tour also wrapped up its season with Matt Bettencourt winning the Tour Championship with a birdie on the 72nd hole of regulation.
Backspin Not a bad ending for someone whose week began with kidney stones and a trip to the hospital. Not only did he win the tournament ' and its $180,000 first-place check ' but he also finished atop the tour's money list and earned his PGA Tour card for the upcoming season. We at Backspin know about kidney stones ' and will say the relief of passing one may be as great as earning your PGA Tour card.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The PGA of America announced that they were in no hurry to name the 2010 Ryder Cup captain ... Greg Norman and his son Greg Jr. won the ADT Golf Skills Challenge ... Ji-Yai Shin won the LPGA's Mizuno Classic in Japan.
Backspin Lately, the PGA of America had been in a hurry to name a new captain in part to get the bad taste out of their mouths and get the focus on the next Ryder Cup. With the recent U.S. victory, they apparently plan on savoring this one a little while ... Norman's son sealed the deal with a clutch shot on the final skills challenge for the win. Did we use the words 'clutch' and Norman' in the same sentence? ... You say you don't recognize the name Shin? Shame on you; she is this year's Women's British Open winner.

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage ' Children's Miracle Network Classic
  • Full Coverage ' Nationwide Tour Championship
  • Full Coverage ' HSBC Champions
  • Full Coverage ' Mizuno Classic
  • More Headlines
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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.


    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.”