Time Machine

By Jay CoffinJuly 16, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' Its impossible to walk 10 steps around these hallowed grounds without seeing a reminder of the 1977 Duel in the Sun. The epic battle between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry is still regarded as one of the most electric major championships ever and signage, video reels, scoreboards and shirts documenting that occasion blanket this place. Theres even a pub here named after that magical Sunday.
 
Tom Watson tips his hat to the gallery after making birdie on No. 12 in the first round. (Getty Images)
Nicklaus hasnt played a British Open since 2005 at St. Andrews so Watson has been asked ad nauseum this week to recall the events from 32 years ago. He talked about his love-hate relationship with links golf in the early years, he talked about a young neighbor girl who gave him a lucky piece of aluminum foil and heather before he won the British Open at Carnoustie in 1975 and he talked about how he could remember each of the 65 shots he took to defeat Nicklaus in 77.
 
But it wasnt until late Wednesday afternoon, when his pre-tournament obligations were complete, that he saw the biggest indication that hed play well this week. Watson received a text message from Nicklaus wife Barbara, who simply wished Watson good luck. Watsons return message told Barbara how much he misses spending time with the Nicklaus family during Open Championship week.
 
Theres something slightly spiritual about today, Watson said following his first-round 65 that put him a shot off the lead. Just the serenity of it was pretty neat.
 
Pretty neat? Some in the gallery were nearly in tears watching Watson rekindle the magic that helped him win five British Opens. Someone forgot to tell Watson that its 2009, that hes 59-years-old and that hes not supposed to be leading major championships against Tiger Woods (the TW that most thought would be leading) and a handful of players who are young enough to be Watsons grandchildren.
 
It wasnt too long ago when Watson made noise at the 2003 U.S. Open where, then 53, he fired a first-round 65 at Olympia Fields to hold a share of the lead with caddie Bruce Edwards on the bag fighting a battle against ALS. Edwards passed away 10 months later.
 
This time is altogether different. This is the major with which Watson is most associated. He freely admits that hes a ceremonial golfer at the Masters and cannot contend with the kids at Augusta National. But he knows he has a fighting chance to contend here this year and next at St. Andrews, where hell play in his 33rd and final British Open.
 
I feel inspired playing here, Watson said. A lot of it has to do with being in the presence here at Turnberry again, just the culmination of a lot of things that have gone on already.
 
I feel that Im playing well enough to win the golf tournament. It doesnt feel a whole lot out of the ordinary from 32 years ago except that I dont have the confidence in my putting as I had 32 years ago. But, again, a few of them might go in.
 
It was vintage Watson. Dressed sharply in his gray trousers, gray and black argyle sweater with a light purple shirt underneath he smoothly charted his way through these links with five birdies, the last coming at the par-5 17th hole where he hit his tee shot longer than playing partners Sergio Garcia and amateur Matteo Manassero. Watson was in control (he hit 12 fairways and 15 greens), his putter didnt let him down as its done several times in the past and he used his vast experience and knowledge of these championships to make him seem unstoppable.
 
He flushed it today, Garcia said. The quality of his shots, it was awesome to watch.
 
Watson hit his drive in the right rough off the 18th tee but he hit a 7-iron from 200 yards onto the green and two-putted to close with a par.
 
Its fun to hit the ball solid, Watson said. The reason Im out here is to hit quality shots when the pressure is on. I love to compete and I still like to hit a shot when it really counts.
 
No one knows what to expect from Watson the next three days. He doesnt know what to expect. Prior to this he had not been playing much and had turned his attention to filming an instructional video hes wanted to produce for a long time. He doesnt know if hell be able to handle the pressure that goes with his situation, saying that some days he finds it easier to deal with than others.
 
But none of that matters. At least for one glorious day in Scotland the magic was back.
 
He did everything well, Watsons caddie Neil Oxman said.
 
There were signs everywhere that said he would.
 
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    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.”

    Getty Images

    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.