Low expectations

By Jason SobelSeptember 25, 2011, 6:01 pm

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Mark Mulder has traded pinpointing strike zones for pummeling fairways. He has given up trying to avoid the long ball for encouraging it. His wild pitches are now accompanied by awkward bellows of, “Fore!”

A veteran of nine Major League Baseball seasons, the former pitcher is no weekend hacker. He carries a 0.3 index at prestigious Whisper Rock Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he often competes against some of the world’s best players.

As a former professional athlete and scratch golfer, Mulder must give some of the elite pros a run for their money, right?

“Uh, no,” the two-time all-star said with a laugh. “Pat Perez is one of my best friends. I’ve probably played 100 rounds with Pat and never beaten him. That’s with me having career days and him playing in flip-flops.

“But I’m lucky because I get to play with these guys. Most people don’t understand the pressure that those guys are under and how good they do and how well they perform. They play with me and shoot 65 with their eyes closed. That’s what people don’t realize. When the pros miss a shot, they miss by five yards and they’re mad. If I hit the green, I’m like, ‘Sweet!’”

Mulder is hoping to hit plenty of greens this week, as he competes in the Championship Flight of the Golf Channel Amateur Tour national championships.

Competitive golf is nothing new to him, either. Last year, Mulder qualified for this event, but was forced to withdraw when he also reached the U.S. Mid-Amateur on the same week. He’s also played in the last four editions of the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe, finishing in a share of 23rd place this year.

Despite such an advanced golfing pedigree, he came into this week’s event with low expectations. Mulder is splitting time these days between his Arizona home and Bristol, Conn., where he serves as a television analyst for ESPN’s baseball coverage – which doesn’t leave much time for teeing it up.

“It’s been awful for a few months now,” he said of the current state of his game. “I’m doing this because I want to have fun. I have a few other buddies who are playing and it’s a good time no matter how bad I play. But my expectations aren’t very high. I’ve never taken a lesson in my life and when I’m down like right now, I don’t know how to fix it.”

A member of the 2006 World Series-winning St. Louis Cardinals, Mulder believes there are similarities between playing golf and pitching, though they have less to do with technicalities like mechanics and footwork and more to do with the mental side of each pursuit.

“To me, it’s more the mindset,” he said. “In baseball, nothing can happen until I throw that ball; everything is on me when it comes to that pitch. It’s the same in golf. Everything is on me. If you think about it, those are the only two places in sports where you can think too much. Everything else is a reactionary thing, but pitching and golf are the only two things where you can overthink it. They’re different than anything in any other sport.”

Despite that correlation, don’t expect Mulder to follow his pitching career with a pursuit toward an occupation in professional golf anytime soon.

“You know, when I played baseball, I always thought when I was done playing, I’d try to make the senior tour,” he said. “But to be honest with you, now that I’m done, I realize the game is a getaway. It’s my time away.

“I played a professional sport and worked out and trained at the highest level. I don’t care to do that again. I know the work that I put in for baseball and there’s no chance I ever want to put in that work for golf.”

Mulder will enjoy epitomizing “amateur” in Golf Channel Amateur Tour this week. And even if his game doesn’t improve soon, he’ll still be smiling when it’s over.

“If I took this game too serious,” he said, “I wouldn’t enjoy it.”

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.”

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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.

LPGA:

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.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm