Tip of the Cap to 2008

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the GOLFCHANNEL.com editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
HALF FULL/HALF EMPTY: Tiger Woods delivered some crushing news when he announced immediately after his already legendary U.S. Open victory that he will miss the rest of the 2008 season with another knee surgery and rehabilitation on a stress fraction in his tibia.
Backspin You can look at his absence in one of two ways: Tiger treated golf fans to an incredible first half of the '08 season, winning four of his six starts on the PGA TOUR, which included a major and a runner-up at the Masters; or, by pulling the plug on the rest of the year, Tiger has denied golf fans the possibility of witnessing what was shaping up as one of the greatest seasons in history. Either way, he produced more all-time classic highlights in six events than you can shake a stick at. For that we must be grateful.

TRAVELIN' MAN: Stewart Cink held on to win the Travelers Championship after defending champ Hunter Mahan birdied the final two holes to briefly tie for the lead. It was Cink's fifth career PGA TOUR win.
Backspin It was just a matter of time before Cink would again return to the winner's circle after not having visited there since all the way back in the 2004 season. His recent play - a pair of runner-ups and two third-place finishes - indicated his form was setting up for a long-overdue victory. The win vaults Cink to just behind Mickelson and Woods on the money list and also gets him back into the top-10 in the world rankings. Not a bad weekend for Dana Carvey's look-a-like.

THE BALL IS NOW IN YOUR COURT: Speaking of Mickelson, with Tiger now sidelined for the rest of the season, Lefty takes over as the games top-ranked player for the remainder of 2008.
Backspin Taking Tiger out of the equation, Phil is the logical choice to fill the temporary top spot - he's ranked second in the world, second on both the money list and FedExCup points list, second to Tiger in scoring average and second in worldwide fan appeal. Hes also No. 2 in most wins this season and second on the Ryder Cup points list. Like we said, take Tiger out of the equation and Phil is no doubt the BMOC.

BAD MOJO?: Suzann Pettersen, the No. 3 ranked woman in the world, watched her control of the Wegmans LPGA slip away and allowed 22-year-old Eun-Hee Ji to grab the victory in New York.
Backspin Some could see this minor collapse as bad mojo as the ladies head into next week's U.S. Women's Open. But perhaps not for a lady like Pettersen. Remember last season, the Norwegian suffered a heartbreaking loss at the Kraft Nabisco only to bounce back to win her first career LPGA Tour title and then weeks later bust out with her first major championship. We'll see this week if that kind of resiliency is still there.

YOUNG-TIMER: Mild-mannered Jeff Sluman rolled in a monster putt on the final hole to wrap up his first Champions Tour victory at the Bank of America Championship. Sluman finished two-strokes ahead of Loren Roberts.
Backspin The victory was Sluman's first-ever on the 50-and-over set and he has now established himself as one of the players to beat on the senior circuit. Following the win, a less than confident Sluman admitted, 'When I turned 50 last year my game was in tatters.' Tatters no more, my friend.

THE K MAN: Martin Kaymer birdied the first playoff hole against Anders Hansen to win the BMW International Open. The 23-year-old Kaymer nearly wasted his chance at his second victory of the year, blowing a six-stroke lead in Sundays final round before winning it in extra holes..
Backspin Kaymer made history this week in Munich, becoming the youngest player and the first German to win the BMW International Open in the tournaments 20-year history. With the victory, Kaymer moved into sixth place in the Ryder Cup points standings and now trails only Miguel Angel Jimenez in the European Tours Order of Merit..

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Mickelson was added to this year's LG Skins Game, his first appearance in the event since 2003; UCLA's Tiffany Joh put on a furious late rally to win the U.S. Womens Amateur Public Links over Southern California recruit Jennifer Song; Scott Hebert, a former Ferris State player based at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Michigan, won the PGA Professionals National Championship.
Backspin Some fans have wondered aloud in the past few years if the Skins Game has become irrelevant - and they may have a point - but throwing Lefty into the mix certainly will spice things up; The Publinx win was the second in three years for Joh, who also was apart of the winning Curtis Cup team as well as runner-up in the women's NCAA Championship just last month; The 39-year-old Herbert earned $75,000, a spot in six PGA TOUR events, and a place in this years PGA Championship.
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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.”