What's the one thing Love should have done differently?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 2, 2012, 4:50 pm

Everyone second-guesses a losing Ryder Cup captain. Even the captain has to wonder, 'Is there one thing I could have done differently?' If U.S. captain Davis Love III has asked himself that question, the GolfChannel.com team has some answers.

By JAY COFFIN

Difficult to pick just one.

The mistake Davis Love III made that sticks out most is posting Tiger Woods 12th in the Sunday singles lineup. I get it, the dude isn’t known for adapting well to the team atmosphere, and he slapped it around suburban Chicago for two days like a man who wasn’t engaged. Steve Stricker wasn’t much help to Woods but 0-3 was 0-3.

Singles, however, is a different animal, it’s where Woods shines brightest. To put him 12th, in a position that was virtually guaranteed to not matter, is reckless. Many believed Woods’ match would be irrelevant because the Ryder Cup would be clinched much earlier by the Americans. Turned out it was clinched by the Europeans in the 11th match when Martin Kaymer defeated Stricker.

This generation’s best player doesn’t play well in team events, but he’s still the best match-play competitor of this generation, too. Love said that everyone on his team got what they wanted in singles. So that means Woods wanted the last position? Even if it was true, Love should’ve known better. Woods needed to be a factor. Sadly for the Americans, and the crazed Chicago fans, he wasn’t.


By RANDALL MELL

Phil Mickelson can be a golfing genius, but sometimes he outsmarts himself. He won with two drivers in his bag at the 2006 Masters, but he struggled miserably in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines after deciding not to put a driver in his bag on what was then the longest layout in the championship’s history.

It’s difficult in this corner to overly scrutinize Davis Love III’s Ryder Cup decisions, because his strategies put his players in good position to win on Sunday. Sometimes, in sport, you lose because your field-goal kicker misses a point-blank chance from 25 yards. Love watched something akin to nine kickers missing Sunday at Medinah. In the end, if Jim Furyk doesn’t bogey the final two holes, if Steve Stricker makes a putt at the 17th, if Tiger Woods makes more than one birdie in the final round to take some early doubt out of his match, the Americans probably win. This writer will remember the American players beating themselves on Sunday more than the captain bungling anything. Yeah, the Euros were great, but the Americans winning just three of 12 singles matches? It's the lousiest Sunday in American Ryder Cup history.

Still, we’re second-guessing here, which is a sport within a sport in the Ryder Cup. If there’s one decision Love made that could be undone to try to win that Ryder Cup, it’s resting Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in the Saturday afternoon fourballs. They were 3-0 and looked unbeatable as a tandem crushing Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in a record-tying rout in foursomes.

Yeah, Mickelson was insistent with Love that he rest, even citing stats showing that players who competed in all five matches did not historically fare well in Sunday singles. By the way, Americans who play five matches are 17-11-7 since 1979. Mickelson told Love that winning one more point on Saturday was not worth losing two on Sunday, but Love should have persuaded Mickelson otherwise, even though Love liked the idea of resting every player for at least one match. With the luxury of 20/20 hindsight, we can say Love should have scrapped that plan. Mickelson was wrong. One more point on Saturday would have been worth the risk of losing two on Sunday.


By RYAN LAVNER

OK, so Phil Mickelson duped the captain. U.S. Ryder Cuppers who play all five sessions don’t actually have a poor singles record. The two Europeans who played all five sessions at Medinah, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, won their singles matches, too.

If there was one player on the U.S. side who could break the trend and play all five, who had boundless enthusiasm and could go another 18 (if not 36), who could resuscitate a lifeless teammate and pull out a victory . . . then it was rookie Keegan Bradley.

Lefty wanted to rest and not play five, and that’s his choice. (Though, really, shouldn’t it have been the captain’s?) Bradley, however, was so explosive in the team format and playing so well, how could Love afford not to trot him out again on Saturday afternoon? He’s 26 years old. He played only 12 holes in the morning and, really, cut that total in half – they played alternate shot.

In Saturday afternoon fourballs, Love should have paired Keegan with Tiger, left Stricker (who clearly had lost his putting stroke) on the bench, and watched to see if it worked, to see if it created a spark, to see if Bradley and Tiger chest-bumped and backside-slapped, to see if Bradley’s exuberance and Tiger’s stoicism created an mesmerizing duo.

The Europeans were buoyed by the fact that they split fourballs, that they trailed only 10-6 heading into Sunday. In hindsight, the Americans probably wished they had that extra point Saturday night – and their dynamo, Bradley, on the course in each session.


By REX HOGGARD

Let the nitpicking begin, although these types of postmortems always seem to ignore the fact that neither Davis Love III nor Jose Maria Olazabal hit a putt that mattered last week. But if we must identify a goat it’s best to begin, and end, our search with the captain’s picks – specifically Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker.

With Furyk and Stricker, Love opted for known commodities, let’s call them comfort picks. In Stricker the American side had the yin to Tiger Woods’ yang, a partner who he enjoyed a 2-1-0 Ryder Cup record with, while Furyk was viewed in team circles as the U.S. quarterback.

Neither, however, produced. Furyk was 1-2-0 and bogeyed his final two holes on Sunday to cough up a 1-up advantage to Sergio Garcia and swing the momentum back in the Europeans favor.

Stricker was no better, posting a 0-4-0 week and finishing bogey-par to drop the decisive point to Martin Kaymer, who didn’t exactly set Medinah ablaze on Sunday. The German was 1 over par on Sunday yet clenched the cup for Europe with his 1-up victory.

Love's biggest mistake may have come a month before the matches. Hindsight being 20/20 and all, it’s natural to wonder if Hunter Mahan, who was ahead of Furyk and Stricker on the U.S. points list yet was passed over for a pick, could have delivered on Sunday? One thing is for certain, he couldn’t have performed any worse.


By JASON SOBEL

I don't have a problem with many of the decisions made by Davis Love III. If just one player had turned his L into a W on Sunday, the captain would be hailed as a conquering hero and we'd instead be second-guessing his European counterpart right now.

The truth is, I thought Love did a very good job from a tactical and managerial standpoint. The only major issue I had relates to advice.

One by one Sunday afternoon, players approached the 17th and 18th holes for either the first time or one of the first times all week. And one by one, they went long and/or left approaching each green.

In a regular PGA Tour event, competitors are limited to advice only from their own caddies. At the Ryder Cup, the captains are free to dole out warnings anytime they wish.

Love should have taken advantage of that. By the time such decisive matches as the ones involving Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker reached the final hole, he should have been walking down the fairway with them saying, 'Everyone's gone long here all day. Keep in mind your adrenaline and take one club less.' Or once they were in such a predicament, Love could have offered, 'Yes, that putt from the back of the green is very quick, but it doesn't break nearly as much as you think.'

There is a difference between individual tournaments and team competition. Love had an opportunity to take advantage of that difference, but didn't.

Just think: His advice could have contributed to one more shot or one more putt being so much better. If he had, we might not be second-guessing him right now. We might be hailing him as a conquering hero.


By WILL GRAY

The writing was on the wall.

In a year full of top finishes and solid play, Jim Furyk’s season was highlighted by the ones that got away. Whether it was an errant tee shot on the 70th hole at Olympic or a double bogey on the final hole at Firestone to hand the trophy to Keegan Bradley, doubts ran rampant about the former U.S. Open champ and his ability to seal the deal.

When Furyk saw his singles match with Sergio Garcia slip away on Sunday – allowing the Spaniard to turn a 1-down deficit on the 17th tee into a 1-up victory with a pair of pars – those lingering doubts were confirmed in a way no American fan had hoped to see.

Even with the revised format for compiling the American squad, captain’s picks are a precious commodity. In using one on Furyk, captain Davis Love III chose a player whose career fourball record (still stuck at 1-8-1) essentially took him out of the mix during the afternoon sessions and whose ability to handle the pressure cooker of singles play was suspect at best. Weeks or months down the line, perhaps the question Love will ponder most is whether a player like Bo Van Pelt, a steady ball-striker with a penchant for birdies, could have been more useful – or productive – in the slot given to Furyk.

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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.”