Is it 2007 Yet
The beauty of a new season is the unknown. The players we just dont know about and the players well soon know plenty about.
Tis the Season and this column will be about numbers, using the Twelve Days of Christmas. Not trying to be cute (beyond just giving you the 12 subjects for the song in case youd forgotten). Instead (though you can hum along if youd like), Ill just give you a countdown using the number 12 to share some things that might just make you think about the year that was, the year that will be or just your love for the game and what it brings.
12. Drummers Drumming (Twelve Sure Bets to win a PGA TOUR event)
Some of these are easy. But as a whole, picking winners is never a lock. Heres 12, and while you can say that many were not that challenging, Id offer up the theory that if Ernie and Retief can go winless as they did in 2006, then who knows. I say each of these guys is sure to click at least once:
Woods, Mickelson, Furyk, Els, Singh, Toms, Immelman, Garcia, Scott, Goosen, Love, Ogilvy.
11. Pipers Piping (Eleven Pretty Safe Bets to win a PGA TOUR event)
These guys are no guarantee to find the winners circle. But if somebody said, you need to get away from the obvious, then I subscribe to the theory that this batch of 11 will hold a trophy in 2007:
Jerry Kelly, Steve Stricker, Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Mike Weir, Ryan Palmer, Chad Campbell, Arron Olberholser, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Shaun Micheel.
10. Lords-a-Leaping (Ten Decent Bets to Get a First PGA TOUR win)
How in the world doesnt Harrison Frazar have a PGA TOUR win by now? Far too talented to keep this streak going. I say it ends. And Ill give you a list of 10 who I think can get rid of the donut beside their name:
Frazar, Brian Gay, Bill Haas, Justin Rose, Tim Clark. Brett Quigley, Daniel Chopra, Camilo Villegas, Nathan Green, Nick Watney.
9. Ladies Dancing (The Back Nine at Augusta 2007)
While its nine Ladies Dancing, well save the ladies for No. 8. This is about the years first PGA TOUR major. Much as I try right at this moment, I just cant see any way that Tiger Woods doesnt get Phil Mickelson to return the favor and slip a green over his shoulders. Woods battles Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, David Toms and Luke Donald on the back nine, until about the 15th hole where it becomes clear that Woods has it in the bag. It makes three majors in a row, 13 overall and the only question is whether he continues a streak of consecutive PGA TOUR wins in the process.
8. Maids-a-Milking (Top 8 on the LPGA Money List)
Remember, its a Solheim Cup year so the season will already have some drama. But the money list in 2007 should be a wild ride once again. This time, its not Ochoa or Sorenstam who wins it. Karrie Webb proved a lot in 2006. Ochoa has clearly established herself as the rising star ' well see how she handles the pressure. Itll finish like this:
Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam, Christie Kerr, Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, Mi Hyun Kim, Natalie Gulbis, Ai Miyazato.
7. Swans-a-Swimming (The PGA TOURs Lucky 7)
Last year, 20 players who graduated either from the Nationwide Tour or PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament were able to finish among the PGA TOURs Top 125 on the money list. Given that Chris Couch, Troy Matteson, Eric Axley, Brett Wetterich and J.B, Holmes counted themselves among the winners in 2006, wed better keep an eye on this years graduates. Heres a list of seven whove battled tough tours and tough times and who I believe will have their moments from either the Nationwide Tour or Q-School:
Paul Gow, Johnson Wagner, Anthony Kim, Matt Kuchar, Cameron Beckman, Dicky Pride, Bob May.
6. Geese-a-Laying (Six Foreign Born Players Ready to Make Noise)
Every year the invasion swells and it becomes tougher for the American up-n-comers to go ahead and come up. Its a worldwide game and here are six names to remember this year. One will be a PGA TOUR rookie, the others have been on tour and are ready to really make some noise:
Julieta Granata ' LPGA, Jarrod Lyle ' Nationwide Tour Graduate, Greg Owen ' PGA TOUR, Ian Poulter ' PGA TOUR, Justin Rose ' PGA TOUR.
5. Golden Rings (Five 50-Somethings Ready For Champions Tour)
Ah. Its great to be fifty. Ask Loren Roberts how hes doing these days. And this year the list of 50 year old birthday boys grows to include some other names. Watch out, because there they come. Nick Faldo, Nick Price, John Cook, Seve Ballesteros, Mark OMeara, Jeff Sluman. Together theyll provide the Champions Tour with some pizzazz. And look out Loren ' theyre after your money.
4. Calling Birds (The Four Major Winners)
When the PGA Grand Slam of Golf heads to Bermuda next Thanksgiving week, these are the guys who will be there:
Masters ' Woods slips past Fuyrk.
U.S. Open ' Furyk outlasts Woods and Els to win at Oakmont.
Open Championship ' Woods adds to Jean Van de Veldes pain by making birdie at Carnousties 18th en route to a four shot win.
PGA Championship ' at Southern Hills its Sergio Garcia breaking through at the site of Retief Goosens U.S, Open.
Els rounds out the foursome at the PGA Grand Slam by virtue of his consistent major record in 2007.
3. French Hens (The Three Most Intriguing Non-Majors)
This one is tough. Ill leave WGC events out of this because I actually believe that the playoff stretch run of the FedEX Cup will get far more water cooler conversation. But those events aside here are my three:
Mercedes-Benz Championship ' Will Tigers streak continue? Will Stuart Appleby win yet again? And selfishly, plenty of eyes will be on The Golf Channel as PGA TOUR coverage finds a new home.
EDS Byron Nelson Championship ' After Lord Byrons passing you can bet the field will be full of stars paying tribute and the trophy ceremony will be emotional. Winning it this year will be extra special.
The PLAYERS ' newly renovated course, new date in May and plenty of fireworks after the Masters and before the U.S. Open.
2. Turtle Doves (Two Most Perplexing Players Heading to 07)
Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els. This one is easy for me. Each man could win multiple majors and also Player of the Year. Each one could continue along their most recent path and struggle a bit. I pick them because well be watching them as much as anyone. Word is that Phils coming out more fit than ever and at this stage Ernies knee can no longer be an issue. The feeling here is that each man wins early whether they win often is what Ill be waiting to see.
1. Partridge in a Pear Tree (One Player of the Year)
In two of the last three years on the PGA TOUR I picked Ernie Els. He hasnt been able to do it. This year, Im not taking the chance. Until somebody proves Tigers not the best, hes still the best.
Predictions are just that. And youll probably find plenty of reason to disagree. Thats just fine with me. I enjoy reading your take on my take. More than anything, Im looking forward to a new look PGA TOUR, the continuation of a great bit of LPGA momentum and some new fresh faces on the Champions Tour.
The fresh new beginning for The Golf Channel is pretty exciting too. I hope youll enjoy the ride along with us. Happy Holidays!
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.”