Harrington Takes Tenuous Lead

By Mercer BaggsMarch 28, 2003, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Padraig Harrington is the leader heading into weekend play at The Players Championship. But you hear a bit of the Underdog attitude when you listen to him speak.
 
Im just as intimidated by an Ernie Els, a Phil Mickelson, Davis Lovejust as much as Tiger, Harrington said.
 
He wont have to worry about Els and Mickelson, who arent competing this week, but will have to contend with Love and probably Woods over the final two rounds.
 
Harrington stands at 9-under-par 135. Love, who won this event in 1992, is two back after a 67. Hes tied for second place with defending champion Craig Perks (69) and Skip Kendall (69).
 
Harrington, who was one of 68 players to finish his first round Friday morning, played 26 holes overall; first wrapping up a 5-under 67, and then following up with a 68.
 
Because of Thursdays rain postponement, the second round will also extend to another day. Darkness brought a halt to play at 6:44 PM ET. Twenty-seven players will have to complete their second rounds Saturday, starting at 8:30 AM.
 
The third round is scheduled to begin at 10:15.
 
Tiger Woods narrowly avoided the early morning wake-up call. He finished his round of 2-under 70 just before the siren sounded. He is at 2-under for the tournament.
 
Perks is trying to do what Tiger couldn't in 2002 -- become the first player in the tournaments 30-year history to successfully defend his title. He, too, had to complete his opening 18 in the morning, playing his final five holes in 3-under to tie Fred Couples for the official first-round lead, at 5-under.
 
He kept the momentum going early in round two, starting birdie-eagle. He then reeled off 13 straight pars before trading a bogey at 7 for a birdie at 8.
 
I just feel comfortable out here. Got a lot of good memories, he said. Obviously, something about this course agrees with me.
 
Despite being the reigning champion, the Kiwi, who has made some extensive swing changes since his lone PGA Tour victory, was given 1000-to-1 odds, by a national newspaper, to repeat. He said he doesnt feel slighted, and that respect is earned and not owed.
 
You get respect by winning, he said. Im still the defending champion, my flag is still flying out there and hopefully itll be that way Sunday evening.
 
Woods, who won in 2001, hovered around the cutline ' which is currently at even par ' for the first half of his round before securing his 101st consecutive cut made on tour.
 
Starting on the back nine, he was even par for the tournament until he birdied Nos. 2, 3 and 5. He closed, however, with a bogey at the par-3 eighth.
 
'I'm not going to analyze it. It's one of those rounds you just move onto the next,' he said.
 
Harrington defeated tournament host Woods in winning the unofficial Target World Challenge late last year. It was his first victory on American soil, and one that afforded him a bit of confidence.
 
But the six-time European Tour winner doesnt like to measure himself against his fellow competitors.
 
Im not looking at anybody else, said Harrington, who is ranked 10th in the world. Youve got to be really selfish about this and really focused on what youre doing.
 
And hes not just blowing smoke when he says that. Harrington, who owns a degree in accounting, keeps a tournament-by-tournament journal. He jots down performance notes so that he can later detail what he did well and what he needs to improve upon.
 
Im very motivated to get better, he said. If you try and stand still you go backwards. Everybody is improving out here so youve got to make the effort to improve.
 
Harrington believes hell need to better his play over the weekend in order to become just the second European-born player to win here (Sandy Lyle, 1987). Though he made 10 birdies to just two bogeys over his round and a half, he missed seven fairways and six greens in regulation while battling a nagging hip injury in his second round.
 
There wasnt much simplicity in that round of golf, he said before adding that he wasnt too surprised with the results.
 
I could go out there and play better and do worse score-wise, he said. Were told not to get upset about it so Im not going to feel surprised about maybe scoring a little bit better than I played.
 
The result very rarely matches up with how you play.
 
Love could say the same thing. Hes near the top of the leaderboard despite a double bogey at the 18th, his ninth hole of the second round. In danger of falling out of contention, Love birdied five-in-a-row, starting at the second.
 
I needed something like that to get me kick-started in this tournament, said Love, who played alongside Perks.
 
Love won this year at Pebble Beach, but a win this week would far surpass that victory. A win here would be counted as a major ' close to a major, he said. That was my goal this year, so keep myself in position and keep myself at the top of the leaderboard with chances to win.
 
Couples has a chance to join Jack Nicklaus as the only men to win this tournament on three occasions. The 1984 and 96 champion played 22 holes Friday. He was in sole possession of the lead, at 7-under, but made four bogeys and three birdies over his final 12 holes to shoot a second-round 71, and finish three off the pace.
 
It was easy a long time ago to be in contention every Saturday and Sunday, but now I know it might be hit or miss, said Couples, who has been working with Butch Harmon.
 
Can he win this week, for the first time on tour since the 1998 Memorial Tournament?
 
I dont think it would be that farfetched,' he said. 'Its probably a long way down the road, but if I keep working and doing this, I think I can get in the hunt.
 
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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 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

    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.

    Amen.

    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.”