The U.S. Open Winner Is ...

By Jason SobelJune 9, 2011, 9:11 pm

I know who is going to win the U.S. Open.

It’s simple math, really. An easy formula. Crunch a few numbers, calculate some averages and – voila! – there’s your next major champion.

It all has to do with recent history. The last year has seen a changing landscape in professional golf, with major titles no longer the entitlement of the elite.

A charmer from Northern Ireland, an up-and-comer from Germany and a pair of South African farmboys are currently the four reigning champions, each having “shocked the world” in the past 12 months. None were undeserving nor unqualified, but they were hardly household names when they claimed their hardware.

It’s led to a prevailing sentiment that majors have become anybody’s ballgame. So what is the prototype for winning one?

“There isn’t one,” said 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman.

“Anybody can win,” maintained 1997 PGA Championship winner Davis Love III.

“I can tell you what it’s not,” 2003 PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel said. “It’s not a seasoned, veteran player anymore.”

In the past, the quintessential major champion was a straight driver with a deadly putting stroke. Or a big bomber with a sublime wedge game. Or a Seve-like scrambler. Or, well, Tiger Woods.

Those days are over – for now, at least.

“We’re kind of removed from a decade ago, when Tiger was winning every major,” Immelman said. “At that point, everybody thought that you had to have 5 percent body fat and bench press whatever and hit a million golf balls.

“We’re at a point where there’s so many guys who have an opportunity to win. It’s amazing when you look at it – between the Westwoods and the McIlroys and McDowells, the guys we see contending all the time – they all have different actions, they’re all different shapes and sizes and heights. … I think that’s the fascinating thing right now that’s so nice for fans – everybody is a little different.”

With all due respect to Immelman and his fellow major champions, there still is a prototypical player for winning majors.

You just have to know the secret formula. (For my full list of top 25 finishers at this year's U.S. Open, click here.)

Actually, it’s not such a secret. It’s all about just examining the four current major champions and finding commonalities between them.

Graeme McDowell is 5 foot 11, 168 pounds. He was 30 years old at the time of his U.S. Open triumph, ranked 37th in the world and owned five international victories, but none in the U.S.

Louis Oosthuizen is listed at 5 foot 10 and a generous 170 pounds. He was 27 when he prevailed at St. Andrews, then ranking 54th with six international titles, but none in the U.S.

Martin Kaymer seems much bigger, but his bio numbers show him at 6 foot, 165 pounds. He was 25 when he won the PGA Championship and ranked 13th, with seven international wins, but – you got it – none in the U.S.

And lastly, there’s Masters champ Charl Schwartzel, who’s 5 foot 11 and 140 pounds soaking wet. At 26 and ranked 29th when he won, he owned six international victories, but – altogether now! – none in the U.S.

It only appears on the surface like there is no prototype for winning majors, but the statistics show it’s very much the opposite. All recent champions have been within two inches and 30 pounds of each other. They were between 25 and 30 years old. They ranked between 13th and 54th in the world. And perhaps most tellingly, they owned five to seven career wins, but never had any of ‘em in the good ol’ U. S. of A.

So here he is, folks. Your 2011 U.S. Open champion is … 5 foot 11 and weighs 161 pounds … 27 years old … ranked 33rd in the world … owns six career international victories … and has surprisingly never won on the PGA Tour.

Now all we’ve got to do is plug some players into our U.S. Open supercomputer and we’ll actually have a name for this predestined winner.

Let’s try Justin Rose. At 30 years old, ranked 29th in the world and with six international wins, he’s pretty close, but a pair of PGA Tour victories and his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame means he’s too big to fill these shoes.

Next up is Robert Karlsson.  He’s never won in the U.S. and his world ranking of 23rd is close, but he’s too big, too old and has too many wins around the globe.

How about Alvaro Quiros? The long-hitting Spaniard is 28, ranked 24th and has five international wins with none in the U.S. Could be our newest major champion, but at 6 foot 3, 182 pounds, he’s another guy who’s too large to be in charge.

Check out Francesco Molinari. He’s 5 foot 8, 159 pounds, 28 years old, ranked 20th in the world and has two international wins. So close, but not victory cigar.

If there was only someone else in the Molinari family …

Well, there is. And he just happens to be your prototypical major champion.

Edoardo Molinari is 5 foot 11, the exact average height of the recent major champions. He weighs 163 pounds – 32 ounces heavier than we wanted, but hey, he easily could lose a few in the Congo heat. He’s 30 years old – close enough. He’s ranked 35th – close enough. He owns two worldwide wins and none on the PGA Tour – close enough and perfect.

If pure numerology isn’t enough to get you excited about Edoardo’s chances, there’s some personal history at work, too. He’s already a U.S. Golf Association champion, having prevailed at the 2005 U.S. Amateur on Merion, another difficult East Coast course. In his first U.S. Open start as a pro last year, he was T-16 at Pebble Beach entering the final round before an 8-over 79 pushed him down the leaderboard.

Perhaps more importantly is the fact that he fits the recent champion trend. An elite-level player who has yet to make a name for himself at a major, he’s just the type of guy who’s been winning these things lately.

See, there really is a prototypical major champion. For the upcoming U.S. Open, his name is Edoardo Molinari – and much like McDowell, Oosthuizen, Kaymer and Schwartzel before him, he’s about to “shock the world,” too.

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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.”