Favorite/least favorite thing on 2013 Tour schedule

By Ryan LavnerOctober 30, 2012, 3:32 pm

The PGA Tour has released its schedule for the 2013 season. Because the Fall Series will now be the start of the following season, next year will feature a shorter schedule than normal. Our writers chime in with their thoughts on what they like and don't like about the condensed schedule.

By RANDALL MELL

There’s a lot to like with the PGA Tour’s evolving schedule, but there is a glaring shortcoming.

While we’re going to continue to see a big-bang finish with the FedEx Cup playoffs, we still lack the big-bang start.

The Hyundai Tournament of Champions is a solid event, but even its Monday finish won't give the PGA Tour that grand-opening feel. It doesn’t have that special feeling that Opening Day gives Major League Baseball, and that’s a shame. The PGA Tour sort of eases into its schedule instead of starting it with a fireworks show.

While next year’s newly configured fall package will make the start of the 2014 season mean more with FedEx Cup points at stake, it still doesn’t create a heightened sense of anticipation for the start of a new season the way Opening Day does in baseball. At least, it doesn’t as it is imagined.

Give me the Accenture Match Play Championship as the season opener. Give me a World Golf Championship event like that one with the top 64 players in the world competing with the win-or-go-home component, and you'll put a jolt of excitement into the new season’s start.


By JASON SOBEL

OK, so let me get this straight: In its infinite wisdom, the PGA Tour years ago understood that its late-season product couldn’t succeed against the machine that is college and professional football, so executives decided to scale back the schedule under the guise of giving its players a true offseason by implementing the FedEx Cup playoffs, then built in more tournaments after the season was “over,” thereby contradicting its own intention for some downtime and starting next year the newest campaign will come directly after the previous one finishes, creating a never-ending cycle of golf that breeds both familiarity and contempt rather than offering both the players and the consumers a fresh, new, interesting product on the course.

That’s pretty much it, right?

The decision to begin the 2014 season just weeks after the 2013 season is completed is akin to a World Series champion heading to Spring Training while still soaked in champagne. For whatever reason, the PGA Tour has chosen to saturate the market, its obvious approach apparently being that quantity beats quality. Someone needs to tell the folks in PVB executive offices that one of the reasons they wanted to get away from football season is that its popularity is largely based on being a five-month-a-year sport. Miss a game and you’ve missed something big. Miss a PGA Tour event and there will always be another one the next week.

Anyway, that’s my least favorite thing about the upcoming schedule, in case you couldn’t tell.

What’s my favorite thing about it? An extra built-in bye week.

Next year the pros will receive a week off after the first two FedEx Cup playoff events and before the last two, splitting the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship. Then, following the Tour Championship, another bye week before two dozen of the game’s best head to Muirfield Village for the Presidents Cup.

I know. These guys aren’t digging ditches and players who complain about not getting enough breaks come off as whiners. But let’s face it: More players are not only going to play all four events and the Presidents Cup with built-in bye weeks, but play them well. I like that decision. See? Sometimes less can actually be more.


By RYAN LAVNER

The truncated 2013 PGA Tour schedule features few surprises, which is to be expected, with the most radical changes in Tour history – a new qualifying format, split-calendar season, maybe even an anchoring ban – looming in 12 months.

If there is a nit to pick, however, it is this: The Shell Houston Open, which has served as the unofficial tune-up for the Masters since 2007, will now have a new date that figures to hurt the event.

Tournament officials have embraced the week-before-the-Masters slot, turning Redstone Golf Club into Augusta National-lite, with shaved mounds around the greens, slick putting surfaces and mowing patterns from green to tee box. Phil Mickelson has played the lead-in event each year since 2008, and Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel are among the players who have turned up in Humble, Texas, for one final test before the year’s first major.

Unfortunately, with the March 28-31 date, two weeks before Augusta, the SHO likely won’t attract the same caliber of field. Instead, it’ll be up to the folks at the Valero Texas Open to simulate the Augusta experience.


By REX HOGGARD

Let’s call them faux PGA Tour cards, at least that will be the reality if not the official company line from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

To be fair, the transition to a split-calendar Tour schedule will be a “one off” anomaly, rectified with the beginning of the 2013-14 season in October. In the short term, however, there will be the loss of four Fall Series events and the Mayakoba Golf Classic, which will move from the spring when it was played opposite the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship to the fall and the start of the new season.

In practical terms it means a loss of over 600 playing opportunities in 2013, or about five events per player according to one Tour official. For some that will mean the difference between keeping a Tour card or heading back to the circuit’s redesigned qualification process.

Eight events will increase their field sizes in 2013 and the Tour will limit the number of unrestricted sponsor exemptions tournaments can dole out in an attempt to mitigate the loss, but it will be the equivalent of bringing a spork to a knife fight.

The condensed schedule could also be aggravated by a larger-than-normal Q-School class and an onslaught of player utilizing a major medical exemption. The end result will be one of the most demanding schedules in recent memory, particularly for those playing out of the Web.com Tour/Q-School category.

The Tour will not call it a “Tour card Light,” but it should.

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.”