PGA Tour following blueprint of Major League Baseball

By Jason SobelOctober 18, 2012, 4:32 pm

There is a scene in the movie “Bull Durham” where longtime minor-league ballplayer Crash Davis reminisces about life in the majors: “Yeah, I was in The Show. I was in The Show for 21 days once – the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in The Show. Somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.”

A certain hierarchy exists in baseball, one that any kid who has studied the back of a bubble-gum card easily understands. The youngest players compete in Rookie Ball – or Single-A – both the bright-eyed starting line and depressing ending point to many careers; the next step is Double-A, a showcase for burgeoning talents and rejuvenated journeymen; then comes Triple-A, the highest rung on the ladder before reaching the apex; and finally, the majors, the big leagues, what Crash refers to as The Show.

For so many years, the most elite class of professional golf has included only the final two levels on a formal basis, with the Web.com Tour analogous to Triple-A ball and the PGA Tour obviously serving as the big leagues. Sure, there are many other mini-tours of varying degrees, but without direct affiliation to the top level, they have always been more akin to baseball’s independent leagues.

That dynamic is rapidly changing as the PGA Tour took another step toward following baseball’s blueprint on Thursday, announcing that it will take over operational control of the Canadian Tour, rebranding it as PGA Tour Canada beginning in 2013.

In addition to the newly formed PGA Tour Latinoamerica, this decision effectively creates a level of Double-A ball for professional golfers, with full-time spots available on the next rung of this ladder to the most successful players from each circuit.

While the baseball parallel is systematically apparent, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is quick to point out the inherent contrast of moving between levels in each sport.

“The fundamental difference between our sport and team sports is that in team sports somebody decides how good you are and makes a decision on whether they should hire you to be on their team at whatever level,” Finchem explained. “In this sport, you have a specific qualifying system, and you show up with your clubs and you demonstrate you can play.”

Consider that statement ironic, as that has always been the rallying cry for the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, which will cease to exist in its current state after this year.

However, even those bemoaning the final edition of Q-School as we know it can readily admit that the implementation of successive tours offers players a more defined journey toward the common end goal. It may now be more difficult for the everyman dreamer to secure his place amongst the Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy types of the world, but it’s conversely easier for struggling players to retain status under the PGA Tour umbrella rather than relegating them to the netherworld of those independent leagues.

In fact, if there’s dissension in the ranks in regard to the latest announcement, it’s that the big leagues have only chosen to operate select smaller tours rather than all or most of them. Already there is bellyaching amongst some insiders that the PGA Tour could have or should have acquired an organization such as the NGA Tour, which has filtered many elite players, including major championship winners, to the highest level without owning any direct affiliation.

That may be a fair argument and it may only be a matter of time before more tours are sought to join the official hierarchy, though Finchem maintained Thursday that he is not currently in talks with any others.

Unlike 99 percent of all player complaints in the sport, gaining an opportunity to become a full-fledged PGA Tour member hasn’t always boiled down to these two words: Play better. Creating such chances for oneself can often hinge on luck and exposure as much as talent and results. What the newly formed chain of command for these minor-league tours will accomplish is offering more opportunities for players to follow that two-word command as part of a direct route to reaching The Show.

For years, there have been plenty of Crash Davis-like professionals on golf’s minor-league circuit, toiling away without an obvious path to the big leagues. Now the PGA Tour is starting to create that path – one which clearly paves the road toward white balls for driving range practice, courses that are like cathedrals and yes, Crash, possibly even women with long legs and brains.

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