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

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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.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry