Europe in Control Early

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 27, 2002, 4:00 pm
SUTTON COLDFIELD, England ' Paul Azinger drew the wrong club, Europe drew first blood, and the Americans drew another early deficit.
The Europeans won three of the four morning four-ball matches to take a 3-1 lead heading into the afternoon foursomes.
'It was very surprising to me. I put up my best teams and they played very, very well,' said U.S. Captain Curtis Strange. 'Just the way it fell.'
Over 40,000 fans were present on a chilly, overcast morning at The Belfry. The crowds were boisterous and partisan, but respectful.
Its unbelievable, said Bernhard Langer. We (Colin Montgomerie and I) were talking going up the fairway that its the best crowds weve ever seen at any golf tournament.
Dane Thomas Bjorn and Northern Irelands Darren Clarke gave the home team an enormous boost by going out in the first match of the day and defeating world No. 1 Tiger Woods and Paul Azinger, 1-up.
Bjorn and Clarke combined to shoot a better-ball 10-under 62, while the Americans shot 63.
Spains Sergio Garcia and Englishman Lee Westwood teamed perfectly ' each complementing the other ' in routing David Duval and Davis Love III, 4-and-3.
They netted the first point of the Matches. Garcia made a pair of pars at the ninth and 10th holes to maintain a 1-up lead.
The 10th hole was a point of controversy earlier in the week, as European Captain Sam Torrance elected to have the hole played exclusively from the back tees, which made it far more difficult to attack the green with a drive on the short par-4.
Garcia was the only player of any in the morning matches to go for the green off the tee, but came up a few feet short, and in the water. Still he got up and down for a half.
I made some good putts at 9 and 10, and then Lee took over, Garcia said.
Westwood, who, due to his poor play the past two seasons, was a question mark at the start of the week, birdied 12, 13 and 15 to seal the victory.
Germanys Langer and Scotlands Montgomerie never trailed in beating Scott Hoch and Jim Furyk, 4-and-3.
The two, who now have a combined Ryder Cup record of 32-23-9, made numerous putts outside of 15 feet to coast to victory over the U.S. squad.
'It's important for us to get off to a good start and that's exactly what we've had,' Montgomerie said.
The Americans lone saving grace was the combo of Phil Mickelson and David Toms. Toms, the only rookie to go in the morning for the U.S., birdied the first two holes. They led 3-up with six to play, but held off a furious rally to defeat Irelands Padraig Harrington and Swedish rookie Niclas Fasth, 1-up.
Harrington had a putt to halve the match, but his 12-foot birdie lipped hard out of the hole.
Mickelson is still the lone U.S. team member with a winning four-ball record. He is now 4-2-1.
The U.S. hasnt had the lead after the Day-1 morning session since 1991 at Kiawah Island.
Awarded the stomach-churning task of hitting the first shot of the 34th Matches, Azinger chose the wrong club off the first tee. He made the switch, but pushed his drive well right.
It proved to be one of only a few mistakes by any of the players in the foursome.
The morning sessions most anticipated match was easily the most compelling. Both teams made four birdies in the first five holes to keep the match all square.
Woods made a 20-footer for birdie at the par-4 eighth to give his team their first lead of the match, but Bjorn responded by sinking an 18-footer for birdie at 10, and a 25-footer for birdie at the 12th.
Trailing 1-down, both Woods and Azinger peppered the flag at the par-4 13th. Clarke, however, made his fifth birdie of the day by draining a 20-footer to essentially halve the hole.
The next two holes were halved. Bjorn then ran his approach shot at the par-4 16th to within two feet of the hole. He tapped in for the birdie, his fifth of the day, to go dormie.
Woods kept his team alive by drilling a 12-footer for birdie at the 17th, directing a fist pump towards the hole as the ball tumbled in.
Azinger then responded by hitting his approach shot at the last to a foot.
But as had been the case the entire round, the Europeans were slightly better with the putter. Bjorn poured in a 20-footer for the victory, leaping in the air and embracing his partner.
It was just our day, said Bjorn. We mix very well together.
Woods career Ryder Cup record dropped to 3-7-1, while Azinger fell to a career 1-5-1 in the four-ball format.
Clarke is now 3-1-0 in four-balls, while Bjorn is 2-0-0.
'I'm surprised. I still don't believe that they're better in best-ball,' said Strange. 'And historically it shows that, but I'm sorry, you've not convinced me.'
The Americans, who entered the morning matches 7-22-5 as a 12-man team in four-balls, compared to 16-13-6 for the Europeans, are better in foursomes, with a combined 15-13-3 mark.
Thats the good news.
The bad news for the U.S. is that the European team has a combined 23-13-3 record in alternate shot.
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.