LPGA never runs out of optimism

By Jason SobelSeptember 16, 2012, 10:22 pm

I've got this friend – let's call him Chipper, since the name fits – who has an uncanny ability to remain eternally optimistic even though nothing ever happens in his life that should warrant actual optimism.

It's always either, 'Yeah, I got dumped, but there are plenty of other fish in the sea!' or 'I was passed over for that promotion, but I don't think I'm management material anyway!' or even 'I couldn't afford my apartment anymore, but moving back in with Mom and Dad should be fun!'

Admit it: You know someone like Chipper, too. Everyone does. Poor guy has never had a glass half-empty. It’s not even half-full. Instead, it’s half-open to all the great opportunities this world has to offer!!! And yes, he’s always a three-exclamation point kind of guy.

Chipper should be sponsored by Timex. Just like the watch company’s old slogan, he takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.

What does this have to do with golf? Simple. The LPGA is golf's version of Chipper.

Just look at the last two weeks as perfect examples.

At the Kingsmill Championship, the tour had an opportunity to capitalize on a rabid golf fan base that was jonesing for more drama after witnessing Rory McIlroy’s triumph over a BMW Championship leaderboard that included Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood.

When those fans collectively flipped over to the apparent conclusion of the ladies’ event, they were treated to a playoff duel between two of the game’s best players in Jiyai Shin and Paula Creamer. What they received was a live rendition of Groundhog Day, with the competitors playing the same hole with the same hole location eight different times.

It’s difficult to fault the LPGA for the format. Playoffs aren’t supposed to last that long. It’s easier to fault the tour for the dramedy that occurred at day’s end, with Creamer trying to make a decision, Shin interminably noncommittal and nary an official to make a final ruling.

When they came back the next day, rather than bemoan an untraditional finish the LPGA did its best Chipper impersonation, declaring it a great thing that two of their best had the Monday morning stage all to themselves before Shin prevailed on the ninth extra hole.

This week’s Women’s British Open continued the trend, playing out like an old blues tune. ”If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all…”

The spotlight squarely affixed to the year’s final major with the PGA Tour on a bye week, instead the tournament was marred by poor weather and intriguing rulings.

After much of the early wave had already teed off in what was subsequently deemed unplayable conditions on Friday morning, little-known Rule 33-2d was invoked by the Ladies’ Golf Union – though it’s an LPGA co-sanctioned event, it is not run by the tour – which rendered those scores . The rest of the day was washed out, with players returning for the second round on Saturday, then only 50 making the 36-hole cut, with the final 36 holes all contested on Sunday.

It’s almost hard to believe a player named Murphy has been lighting up the leaderboards, considering the LPGA lives at the pedestal of Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Maybe that’s just par for the course in the world’s only sport where the no-doubt-about-it best player in the world retired right in the middle of her prime, giving way to the next no-doubt-about-it best player in the world – only to have her do the exact same thing.

And yet, at Royal Liverpool once again optimism prevailed – and once again, so did Shin, by a whopping nine strokes.

It may not have been the perfect payoff for the women’s game, but domination can win fans and influence people just as much as – if not more so than – a packed leaderboard. (Exhibit 1A and 1B: Tiger Woods at the 1997 Masters and 2000 U.S. Open; Exhibit 2A and 2B: Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship.) In rainy, blustery and by the end, increasingly dark conditions, Shin finished the marathon week as the lone player under par with nobody else within a smashed 3-wood of her on the scoreboard.

Consider it just another sign that perseverance pays. Not just for Shin, whose two victories in seven days were her first in two years. But for the women’s game as a whole.

Too often left holding a glass half-full and hoping to add to it, that optimism was rewarded when the week was completed. It may not have been according to the blueprint, but going off script is becoming the new normal.

Hey, I know one person who was watching this week and never gave up hope that the conclusion would pay dividends. That’s right – Chipper was watching the entire event unfold with usual optimism. And why not? It was pretty cool of his Mom and Dad to let him have control of the TV.

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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.”