Change Creates First Controversy

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2002, 4:00 pm
SUTTON COLDFIELD, England ' Some of the drama that has defined past Ryder Cup Matches at The Belfry may have been neutralized in a decision made Tuesday by European captain Sam Torrance.
Torrance informed U.S. captain Curtis Strange that the par-4 10th would be played exclusively from the back tees. Being captain of the home team, Torrance has the final say on such matters concerning the course.
This means that players may be less inclined to attack the green with their drives. The hole can measure anywhere from 255 to 310 yards, but when played from the back tees, several obstacles come into play.
Take a look at the par-4 10th hole
The hole naturally bends left to right. Trees guard the green on the right-hand side, while a water hazard protects it in the front and to the left.
When the tees are up, a right-handed player can fade his ball around the timber, over the water and onto the green ' with as little as a long iron, which was the case when the Benson & Hedges International was played at The Belfry in May. But with the tees back and pushed further to the right, and a metal wood needed, the trees present a major problem.
We have already pretty much decided ' going around and looking at groups ' that its better to have two putts and a birdie than one putt for par, said Strange in relation to minimizing the risk. He meant, of course, needing one putt for par after taking a drop from the pond in front.
Tiger Woods, for one, did go for the green off the tee Tuesday ' it measured 262 yards to the front ' reaching it with a 3-wood.
I can hit 3-wood there every day and get there. But the problem is I have to come through the trees. And theyve got 60-, 70-foot tall trees there, Woods said.
Sergio GarciaIn addition to the decision made at the 10th, Torrance said he has shortened the grass around the greens in order to give his team an advantage.
The Americans know how to handle maybe the thick rough around the greens better than some of the European players, said Sergio Garcia, who also reached the 10th green with a 3-wood Tuesday and said the decision to move back the tee would not effect his aggressive approach.
Despite the fact that 10 of the 12 European Ryder Cuppers got a course preview when they played in this years Benson & Hedges, its debatable as to whether the course offers a home-field advantage.
The Brabazon Course has been criticized as being too American. It lacks the brown, crusted fairways, pot bunkers and knee-high heather seen on many links-style courses. Instead, its an optical beauty with lush, tight fairways; thick rough; reasonable greens; trees to try and impede the blustery winds; and man-made bodies of water.
The set-up is tough, said Jesper Parnevik. For being a European-type golf course, I think it looks more like a U.S. Open-type golf course.
But despite the courses identity crisis, the 10th hole has always stood on its own merit.
In 1985, U.S. captain Lee Trevino forbade his team to go for the green off the tee. It may have been just coincidence, but the Americans then lost the Cup for the first time since 1957.
In 89, Seve Ballesteros eagled the hole twice in the same day. He made an 18-footer after Jose Maria Olazabal drove the green in the morning foursomes. He then did all the work himself in the afternoon four-balls.
Four years later, Ballesteros laid up with a 9-iron off the tee, while Davis Love III hit a 3-wood to five feet and made eagle. Love and Kite won the hole and their match.
Now, the hole may be reduced from the ultimate in risk-reward, as Love once described, to just a 7-iron and sand wedge.
Im really disappointed, said Paul Azinger, who played in the 1989 and 93 Matches at The Belfry. I mean, I think its a mistake, quite frankly, because I think that the 10th hole at The Belfry had a lot of history, and traditionally I would say 80 percent of the players could go for the green. Now, its maybe 20 percent.
Even Woods said the risk was now far greater than the reward, and that the hole was more intriguing in its old state.
Without a doubt. Its a lot more fun, Woods said. It was the perfect match-play hole because anything can happen. You can make 2 or you can make 6. And I think thats what made it so much fun to play. But thats not going to be the case this year.
Torrance disagrees, and thinks the hole will play the same as it did when the course first hosted a Ryder Cup, in 1985.
My idea was that in the old days when we first played the Ryder Cup here, it was probably, depending on the wind off the front tee, a good, hard 3-wood or sometimes an easy driver, Torrance said.
At the Benson & Hedges this year we played off the front tee and some guys were playing a 3-iron. Thats not a golf hole for a par-4. The technology has taken over. Weve reverted to the back tee, and its possible to knock it on from there.
The hole this week will be equivalent to the hole you had from 85 and onwards.
This is the fourth time The Belfry has catered to a Ryder Cup. Europe won for the first time in 28 years at this venue in 85. They then retained the Cup by halving the Matches with the Americans here in 89. The U.S. won in 93.
Full coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches
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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.”

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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.


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.