PGA Tour Decision Leaves Me Flat

By Kraig KannJuly 9, 2004, 4:00 pm
On the heels of news made this past week in the world of golf, Ive got to get some things off my chest. Im guessing that those in Hotlanta wont be thrilled, but pretend for a moment you live elsewhere and think it through a bit before telling me Ive lost my rational golf intelligence.
NEWS: PGA Tour Announces East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga., as the permanent home of the season-ending Tour Championship.
MESSAGE: Actually its the Tour Championship Presented by Coca-Cola which makes it logical and somewhat understandable that commissioner Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour gang would allow for such a thing. Coca-Cola has roots in Atlanta, I know. East Lake Golf Club is the home course of legendary Bobby Jones, I know. But Ive got serious issues with this.
The state of Georgia already has two PGA Tour events each year (Masters and BellSouth Classic.) It actually used to have three until the former Buick Challenge at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain left the schedule a few years back. Two is plenty, and given that one of them is in suburban Atlanta already makes it an even poorer decision in my mind. Throw in the fact that Atlanta also gets a major every now and again (PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club) and I really get edgy.
Follow me on this: The Tour Championship presents a field with the top 30 money earners on the tour in that given year. In other words, the best 10 or so players in the world are guaranteed to play each year. That doesnt happen every week. In fact, take away the majors or the WGC events and it doesnt happen at all! We all know that each and every week, tournaments and tournament directors are stuck defending their fields based the number of top ranked players participating. The Tour Championship doesnt have any of that working against it.
Heres another problem, as I see it. Certain courses fit certain horses. And if things like the money list, scoring title and Player of the Year honors are up for grabs, should anyone have a certain advantage each year that they show up at East Lake? Dont tell me that Augusta and the Masters is the same, because those awards arent decided that week.
So do the right thing and use this showcase event as a chance to showcase the best the PGA Tour has to offer. Move it around to different states, different cities and different courses that will allow some the chance to see what they might not otherwise get a chance to see! See what I mean?
Look, I know Ive said Canada gets the short end of the stick when it comes to PGA Tour golf before. And if not for The Tour Championships dates each year (Novembers first weekend), then Canada would be a great spot in the rotation.
That said, many states in northern tiers of the U.S. wont cut it either. For instance Indiana, which has no PGA Tour stop, or Michigan, which boasts some of the very best golf in the country. Id love to see the event played in Washington or Oregon. But given November weather there, you just cant make it happen.
I also wouldnt take it to Texas. Not because the weather wouldnt cooperate. It would. Not because there arent enough options for cities or courses ' because the options are numerous. In my view, the state already has four PGA Tour events and thats quite enough, in my opinion.
So .lets go by states, shall we? How about New Mexico? Albuquerque is a great city with no major golf of any kind heading in and out each year. How about Oklahoma? Oklahoma City deserves a chance to jump into the running, doesnt it?
How about Missouri? St. Louis has great golf, and while it wouldnt be exactly balmy in November, I think the top players could find a sweater in the closet for the week, dont you? Tennessee is a great state and you can bet Nashville would know a thing or two about how to entertain the PGA Tours best.
You want to be more specific? How about we look at some great courses. Now East Lake Golf Club certainly qualifies. And the fans there are terrific, but Im just not peachy about settling for what we already know.
Ive gone to Golf Digest for some suggestions, using their 2003-2004 ranking of Americas Top 100. Some of these are private and some are public (which I think would be an even better choice of venue to drum up excitement for determining the Arnold Palmer Award for the PGA Tour s leading money winner.)
In no order of preference, here are some choices with each courses location as well:
The Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, SC
Pasatiempo Golf Club, Santa Cruz, CA
Pinehurst Resort and Country Club No. 2 or No. 8, Pinehurst, NC
Kiva Dunes Golf Club, Gulf Shores, AL
Twin Warriors Golf Club, Santa Ana Pueblo, NM
Olympic Club, San Francisco, CA
The Homestead (Cascades), Hot Springs, VA
The Honors Course, Chattanooga, TN
Forest Highlands Golf Club, Flagstaff, AZ
The Estancia Club, Scottsdale, AZ
Now, I realize we also need to check average temperature for that time of year and not having played many of these courses, I will understand that some might not be able to accommodate large crowds or corporate hospitality.
Im just trying to think outside the box for a minute. And if it were me, just off the top of my head, then Id say The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tenn., sounds perfect. Yes, it's only 2 hours north of Atlanta, and yes, the Volunteer state already has a PGA Tour event (Fed Ex St. Jude Classic in Memphis), but Chattanooga once upon a time had a PGA Tour event and folks in the area might like to re-live some memories.
Plus, I couldnt think of a better promotion for the tournament than: Dont miss the PGA Tours best settling all the awards. The 'final exam' for the Top 30 taking place at The Honors Course.
I know were in a world of corporate dollars doing more talking than anything else. But when it comes to an event where the richest get richer anyway, cant we just try and do something that makes some sense for the GAME and those whod like to watch it too?
Sorry, but I didnt get invited to the meeting, so I just felt like I needed to speak up after reading the press release.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

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

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 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.


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.”