Ya Gotta Be There

By John HawkinsFebruary 4, 2011, 11:11 pm

Whether you love it, loathe it or couldn’t care less about it, the TPC Scottsdale’s 16th is unique as golf holes go. Its evolution from harmless par-3 to the 'Only Place to Be' symbolizes the steady growth of the Phoenix-area PGA Tour stop over the years. Socially, Saturday at Sixteen is a big deal to locals. Visually, it is a sight to behold.

Welcome to “Ya Gotta Be There,” my inaugural collection of golf stuff to which television doesn’t do justice -- things you have to see in person to truly appreciate. In doing its best to capture the flavor of Scottsdale’s 16th this weekend, CBS will focus on the yahoo factor, paying homage to Billy Budweiser and the notion that professional golf can host a party during live action.

Optically, however, neither TV nor the printed word can adequately simulate the experience of standing on a tee surrounded by 20,000 people at full holler. It reminds me of that scene in “Tommy” when Roger Daltrey, who plays the deaf, dumb and blind kid, is playing pinball before a packed house, which is chanting and carrying on while Elton John tears into his remake of “Pinball Wizard.”

Sorry for the lame comparison. As I was saying, ya gotta be there.

Augusta National’s 18th hole. The exclamation point to one of the finest courses on earth, the game’s ultimate competitive stage is also the toughest ticket in any town, which is too bad if you’re a serious golfer without connections. The emergence of high-def TVs gives viewers a much better idea of the steep uphill climb to the 18th green, but it’s the visual from the tee that will blow you away. Since the markers were moved back 60 yards in 2002, the final drive has become one of the most daunting in the game. The gap between the converging tree lines, maybe 100 yards ahead, looks no larger than a keyhole. The big boys fly their ball over the Georgia pines, but the older fellas don’t have the clubhead speed – and sometimes have to play their second shots from the bottom of the hill.

No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale
No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale has become fully-enclosed by corporate hospitality tents and stands. (Getty)

The clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass. The Tour’s shrine to excess, perhaps deservedly so, this four-year-old structure is large enough to serve as a southern branch of the Smithsonian. Dozens of lavishly appointed rooms, opulence galore … they should hand you a map when you walk through the front door. The old clubhouse was like a closet compared with this version. Overstated? Yes, but it’s a handsome building that was marvelously conceived. Chateau le Finchem is large, but clearly, no detail in its construction was considered too small.

The human chaos around Tiger Woods. I’ve seen some crazy stuff over the years, most of it unpleasant, when Sir Eldrick makes any walk through spectators at a tournament site. Kids getting run over by grown men, the screeching and pushing, overzealous security – if you’ve ever wondered why Woods can appear so anti-social amid the adulation, feel free to come to an event and witness the pandemonium for yourself. Even lightly attended events can produce some unruly scenes. Fame can be an ugly drug, and not just to the guy who lives with it.

Any celebration by a victorious Ryder Cup team. To see Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo locked in a bear hug, both icons sobbing as the Euros clinched at Oak Hill in 1995, is a mental snapshot you never forget. They’re all joyous occasions, obviously, and the combination of thin skin and competitive anxiety tells us a couple have gone over the top, but seeing the game’s best players in emotional overdrive – and trying to read a notebook full of champagne-smeared ink – is one of the true perks of the profession. My personal fave? The Americans spraying bubbly off the balcony at Valhalla in 2008.

Ernie Els. Standing next to him and marveling at the sheer size of the man is basically worth the trip. Some guys are just bigger than they’re listed, and I don’t mean in the midsection. Cal Ripken Jr., Tom Brady and the Big Easy immediately come to mind. Els was put together on a day when the assembly line was at its very best. To see him swing a golf club so fluidly only amplifies the notion that he is an imposing physical specimen.

A Phil Mickelson autograph procession. If Woods is the Sultan of Standoffish, Philly Mick is the Mayor of Magnetism. At TPC Boston a couple of years back, I interviewed him while he signed for the masses, a session that showcased his marvelous people skills while he fired harpoons at the Tour’s FedEx Cup postseason format. Such a fascinating dichotomy: happy Phil, mad Phil. He would skip the playoff gathering in Chicago the following week to express his displeasure, but it’s not Joe Sixpack who annoys him. Tiger is more famous, but Mickelson is more popular.

The practice range at noon Sunday. Every paying customer should spend at least 15 minutes in the bleachers before the leaders tee off in the final round. Seeing 20 or 30 golf balls behave at the same time is kind of cool to watch, and who knows? If you’re not careful, you might actually learn something by watching the best players in the world.

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