Punch Shot: Good or bad move to eliminate U.S. Public Links Championship?

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 11, 2013, 3:40 pm

The U.S. Golf Association announced Monday that it would eliminate the men's and women's U.S. Public Links Championship after 2014. The event has been contested since 1922 and is the fourth-oldest USGA event; the men's winner was routinely given a Masters invitation. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in on if this was a good or bad move. (Click for a Publinx timeline and player reaction)


This was a bad move – and really bad timing.

If there’s a recent face of the U.S. Public Links Championship, a player who used the amateur tournament as a springboard to bigger and better things in his career, it’s that of Brandt Snedeker.

Which means that Monday’s announcement by the U.S. Golf Association that it will do away with the event after 2014 was a poor one on a few different levels.

The Publinx has always been the tournament of the people. In a day and age when golf still suffers from the image of an elitist and exclusive game, ridding itself of one of the few high-level tournaments that opposes that image sounds like an idea that’s counterproductive to the USGA’s message.

We keep hearing so much talk about “growing the game,” but it’s difficult to grow the game when you’re robbing some players of opportunities. I’m not naïve enough to think that the Publinx is the only way for a young amateur golfer to get his foot in the door toward being a successful professional, but the tournament has certainly helped players in the past while serving as that springboard.

Just ask Brandt Snedeker.


Good move, U.S. Golf Association.

The U.S. Amateur Public Links and U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links championships have long felt redundant.

With the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur opening their doors back in 1979 to allow players from public courses to compete in the championships, the Publinx events lost their special purpose. There was a real and compelling reason to stage the Publinx championships when those players bred and nurtured on public courses were locked out of the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur. The Publinx events are no longer compelling, no longer a celebration of what the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Amateur Women’s events weren’t.


Clay Ogden. Casey Watabu. Lion Kim.

What do these three have in common? They’ve each won the U.S. Amateur Public Links in the past eight years. Last year, of course, T.J. Vogel defeated Kevin Aylwin in a 12-and-10 rout. The event was held at Soldier Hollow in Utah. But surely you knew that already.

Enough with the feigned outrage. This is a good move. Sure, the Publinx possessed an everyman appeal: All public-links players can compete if they have the game. But the Publinx is no longer a can’t-miss event for the elite amateur. Seemingly all players today have equal access to U.S. Golf Association events, and the crowded summer schedule has diminished the tournament to the weakest on the USGA’s roster of championships.

What to do with the Masters invitation? Well, here’s a better idea: Make the individual NCAA Championship a 72-hole event, then award the winner a berth in the Masters. It’s already one of the three strongest amateur events in the country.


Executives from the U.S. Golf Association woke up Monday morning with several key issues very much on their plate – anchored-putting strokes and slow-play concerns among them. I would assume, though, that few, if any, calls had been fielded in recent weeks complaining that amateur players have too many high-level competitions at their disposal. That’s why I think their decision to eliminate the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship after 2014 is a bad move.

Look, I understand that the current state of the Publinx is a bit different from its first iteration in 1922, a year before Bobby Jones won his first major championship. But while USGA executives may explain that it has drifted from its original mission, I have a tough time grasping how the event is any more outdated than it was 10 years ago when Brandt Snedeker won, or 15 years ago when Trevor Immelman took home the prize – both of whom played The Masters for the first time thanks to their wins in this event.

I am sad to see an event with such rich history end for any reason, especially in a retirement of sorts that comes without precedent. Elite, amateur-level competition is a fascinating subset of this great game, and it is unfortunate that the USGA has opted to eliminate one of the relatively few platforms upon which it can be displayed.

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.


We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.