Talk is Cheap Maybe Not

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
In Backspin, GolfChannel.com takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf ' with a spin.
 
ABOUT FACE: Less than one week after news broke that the LPGA would be requiring all of its players to speak English, commisioner Carolyn Bivens back-peddled saying that those in non-compliance would not be suspended, as originally stated.
 
Backspin This is actually worse than the original mandate. Bivens had to know the kind of backlash she would receive relating to the original policy. If you're going to make such a statement, you should be prepared to stand behind it. She didn't. Backing down just further goes to diminish her effectiveness as a leader of this tour.
 

THE 2030 MASTERS CHAMPION?: Tiger Woods announced Tuesday that he and wife Elin are expecting their second child in late winter. Woods, whose daughter Sam was born on Monday after the 2007 U.S. Open, did not go into specifics on the due date.
 
Backspin With Tiger likely sidelined over the remainder of Elins pregnancy, Woods wont be pressed too hard on the gender of the child. Wonder if he has another daughter if hell want to have children until he produces a son? Wonder what his wife, a former swimsuit model, would think about that?
 

VIVA VILLEGAS: Camilo Villegas grabbed his first career PGA TOUR victory with a wire-to-wire, two-stroke win at the BMW Championship. The 26-year-old Colombian, in his third year on Tour, collected $1.26 million for his efforts, as well as moved into second on the FedExCup standings.
 
Backspin Villegas, a former Florida Gator, has been knocking on the door for a few months now, starting with holding the 36-hole lead at the Open Championship, and culminating with this past week's success. Villegas always seems to play his best in the playoffs, the question is now can he build on his breakthrough?
 

SUSPENSE OVER: With Villegas' victory, Vijay Singh only needs to show up for the TOUR Championship in three weeks to win the FedExCup, and its hefty $10 million bonus. Villegas could even win the final event and have Singh finish in last, and the Big Fijian would still have a 101-point lead.
 
Backspin Back to the drawing for Mr. Finchem, as the adjusted FedExCup format was supposed to produce suspense. Knowing who the champion before the final leg is the antithesis of drama. But we have little doubt that the folks at the PGA TOUR are already drawing up ways to fix the problem. That being said, with the Tour off this week and the Ryder Cup coming up, you can bet your bottom dollar that even though he could shoot a 100 each round and still win, Singh will still spend hours, and hours, and hours and ' well, you get the point ' on the range.
 

THANKS FOR NOTHING: When approached by NBC Sports after his round Sunday for a few comments regarding his all-but clinching of the FedExCup, the surly Singh brushed them off as well as a group of waiting media.
 
Backspin You'll hear a lot about how Singh is misunderstood. That he has a great sense of humor. That he can be generous. He may be those things, but most of the negative perception cast towards Singh is through his own doing ' and is much deserved. There are plenty of reasons to pull for him, and plenty of reasons to root against him.
 

A BORESOME FOURSOME: U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger finalized his team Tuesday in New York by selecting Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, J.B. Holmes and Chad Campbell as his wildcards.
 
Backspin Unfortunately for Azinger, he didnt have much to choose from, as no player proved to be a must have after the PGA. Were not exactly sure what Azinger saw in these four picks, but we know it wasnt experience (three rookies among the four picks) and it certainly wasnt personality. Take Boo Weekley off this team and you might have the dullest Ryder Cup squad in history.
 

A CLAP FOR THUNDER: Tommy Bolt, the 1958 U.S. Open championship, died Aug. 29 at the age of 92. The passing was revealed last week. Bolt won 15 PGA TOUR events, competed in two Ryder Cups (1955, 57) and was inducted, in 2002, into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
 
Backspin As great a player as Bolt was, he will be remembered much more for his temperament. Bolt had a bevy of nicknames based on his demeanor on the golf course: Terrible, Tempestuous, Thunder. Ben Hogan once said, If we couldve screwed another head on his shoulders, Tommy Bolt could have been the greatest who ever played. But, as his wife Mary Lou Bolt said, He was the best man I ever knew.
 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: News broke this past week that Tadd Fujikawa's father was indicted by an O'ahu grand jury on two counts of first-degree methamphetamine trafficking and, if convicted, could face up to 40 years in prison Brendon Todd cruised to a six-shot victory to win the Utah Championship, but the big story was produced by Peter Tomasulo, Chris Stroud, Brian Stuard and Jonathan Fricke - each of whom had holes-in-one in Thursday's opening round Ten Duramed Futures Tour players earned 2009 LPGA membership by finishing in the top 10 on the season money list.
 
Backspin Victor Bakke, Derrick Fujikawas lawyer, said his clients biggest concern is the shadow that this might cast on his son and his sons career. Agreed...You have to go back to the 1989 U.S. Open to find the last time there were four holes-in-one in a single day. In '89 the aces all happened on the same hole. Pretty incredible stuff Of those 10, Vicky Hurst led the money list and is expected to have an impact on the LPGA in 2009. Also among that group, coming in at No. 10, was Big Break IX winner Kim Welch.
 
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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.”