First-hand account of the Pressel-Munoz controversy

By Jerry FoltzMay 21, 2012, 11:24 pm

GLADSTONE, N.J. – On the 13th tee of her semifinal match in the Sybase Match Play Championship against Azahara Munoz, Morgan Pressel was informed that she had violated the LPGA’s pace of play policy. At the time, I was standing next to fellow commentator Phil Parkin, and we exchanged a look of disbelief. Little did we know what would transpire three holes later, but at the time, the penalty seemed unprecedented. It wasn’t.

LPGA rules officials routinely enforce policies to the letter of the law. It’s not fun, and to a person, none of the officials ever want to be the “bad cop,” but they view it as an integral part of their job, and I, for one, applaud them.

The timing of Pressel’s penalty couldn’t have been worse, and the resulting impact on the match was regrettable, but a policy with teeth that goes unenforced, becomes a non-policy.


Video: Anatomy of a slow-play penalty

Sobel: A matter of timing and common sense

Discussion: Penalty fair or bogus?


Rules officials across the board are loath to impose slow play penalties – it’s simply human nature, and they’re even more reluctant to impose those penalties on the player or players in the group who are regarded as faster players. Ideally, the rules and policies would only penalize the “known” culprits. By all accounts, in the case of the semifinal match between Pressel and Munoz, it was Munoz who was the more egregious offender of slow play. But Pressel wasn’t exactly Mika Miyazato (the player I’ve observed as the fastest on the tour).

Through two warnings and notification of being on the clock, Pressel did little to speed up. Having watched what happened from hole Nos. 8-12, and having listened to her interview with Val Skinner (which took place an hour and a half after the match concluded), I’m left to assume that Pressel never thought her pace of play was the problem and that she wouldn’t be penalized.

Slow players cheat the system, routinely, on every tour. They speed up when they’re placed on the clock, and once they’re back in position, they go back to their old ways. It’s as old as time. Therein lies the problem with any objective slow-play policy. However, Pressel’s perceived disregard for the system cost her greatly and might go down as the most expensive penalty in LPGA history.

I was standing next to LPGA official Doug Brecht, to the side of the 12th tee, when he informed me that this match was officially on the clock. I saw the exact moment when he started the timing of Pressel (who was first to play), and I can tell you first hand that he used great discretion as to when to start the clock. And even with that extra allowed time for things to settle down on the teeing ground, she still took 57 seconds to play the shot. Gusting wind, a change of clubs, and a lengthy discussion with her caddie all played a part, but she never appeared to be in a hurry.

By hitting only three shots on the hole, and with the additional 10-second grace period, Pressel was in breach of the rule by 39 seconds – or more than 50 percent of the allotted time. In my view, that blatant of a violation should never receive a blind-eye on behalf of any official. To make matters worse, Munoz missed a short putt to tie the hole, and the loss-of-hole penalty effectively became a two-hole penalty. However, Pressel still teed off on the 13th hole with a 1-up lead.

Clutch putts by Munoz on 15, 16, and 17, combined with missed putts by Pressel on the same holes (and a three-putt on 17) gave Munoz the victory.

Arguments that officials should never decide a match have been flooding my inbox for the last 24 hours, but in this case, I defend Brecht for doing his job, and simultaneously remind people that Munoz won the match on the last three holes – the same three holes where Pressel lost it.

As for the incident on the 15th green, in which Pressel accused Munoz of grounding her putting in her line, I’m sure that Pressel will regret ever making that claim in the manner she did. I’d feel safe in saying she already does.

With Marty Robinson watching the match closely as the referee, any rules infractions would/should have been observed and penalized. It wasn’t a pretty moment for anybody – especially Pressel. Keep in mind, she didn’t accuse Munoz of cheating. Rather, she accused her of inadvertently being in breach of a rule. Either way, it smelled of desperation, and was eventually settled in the appropriate manner.

In the end, both Munoz and Pressel took the high road and buried the hatchet even before the final match. When Pressel made her way out to the final hole to congratulate Munoz on her maiden victory, it was a moment I’ll never forget. I wasn’t the only one getting misty at that moment.

Lost in all of this is the fact that Munoz was clutch when it mattered most, that she handled the adversity with grace, that he was humble in victory. And most of all, lost in all of the controversy was the fact that Munoz lost her grandmother on Monday and was playing with a heavy heart all week. Her parents told her to go win one for the lady with whom she shared a bedroom until she left home at 13 years old to pursue her golf dream. And in the end, one of the kindest young ladies on the LPGA achieved that very dream – for herself, and for those closest to her heart.

Getty Images

McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

Getty Images

Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

 

 

Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.