Singh Back on Center Stage

By Mercer BaggsJune 13, 2003, 4:00 pm
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- Vijay Singh proved two things Friday: One, his golf game is finely tuned. Two, his truth-telling skills need some serious work.
 
Despite being heckled by a fan on the 14th hole, Singh tied a major championship scoring record, shooting 7-under 63 at Olympia Fields.
 
He became the fourth player to shoot 63 in the U.S. Open. Two players have done it in the Masters Tournament; seven at the Open Championship, and eight at the PGA Championship, including Singh in 1993 at Inverness.
 
Singh is tied for the 36-hole lead alongside Jim Furyk. Their 7-under-par 133 total is also a new U.S. Open record.
 
You get the feeling that somewhere dark and smoky, United States Golf Association officials are huddled together, devising a plan to alter the current tide of their crown jewel.
 
Records are falling and career-low scores are being registered in bulk in the 103rd edition. But normalcy seems to be returning to the top of the leaderboard.
 
Following a day dominated by supporting cast characters, the game's leading men are moving to the front of the stage.
 
Jonathan Byrd (66) and Australian Stephen Leaney (68) share third place at 5-under, while a host of marquee names are right behind.
 
Defending champion Tiger Woods shot 66 to get to 4-under. Hes tied for fifth place with Nick Price (65), Justin Leonard (70), Argentine Eduardo Romero (66) and Swedens Fredrik Jacobson (67).
 
Also in the mix are Tom Watson (72), Darren Clarke (69), David Toms (67) and Ernie Els (70). All are at 1-under par. Phil Mickelson (70) and Masters champion Mike Weir (67) are in at even par.
 
Sixty-eight players made the cut, which fell at 3-over-par 143, a new aggregate record. The lowest cut in relation to par is 1-over, at Medinah in 1990.
 
Players agreed that the number of low scores ' Woody Austin had the most anonymous 64 in major championship history Friday to get to 2-under ' is not due to a simple layout, but rather due to soft conditions.
 
There isnt a player in this tournament that would call a U.S. Open course easy, said Furyk. The greens are just a little soft now and thats why youre seeing good scores.
 
Singh was brilliant in his play Friday. He eagled the par-5 first by chipping in from 30 feet. That got him to 2-under for the tournament, and he turned on the same number. He then torched the backside in 5-under 29, tying yet another U.S. Open record.
 
Neal Lancaster shot 29 in the final round at Shinnecock in 1995, and again in 1996 in the second round at Oakland Hills.
 
Singh was at 5-under for his round and the tournament when he hit his tee shot on the par-3 14th to five feet. As he approached the green a fan reportedly yelled out, Annika would have made it.
 
The remark was made in reference to Singh being quoted at the Byron Nelson Classic as saying he hoped Sorenstam would miss the cut in the Colonial.
 
The fan was escorted from the greenside bleachers, to which Singh raised his putter and smiled. After his round, he refused to comment on the matter, saying the incident ' though clearly seen on TV ' never happened at all.
 
I went on to make my putt and birdied the next one, too, is as close as Singh came to an acknowledgement.
 
Upon birdieing 15, Singh was at 7-under. He had a pair of makable birdie putts coming home, but missed them both. He also bogeyed the par-5 sixth, in what could have been an even more exceptional score.
 
Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf were the last two men to shoot 63 in this event, doing so in the first round at Baltusrol in 1980, which Nicklaus won. Johnny Miller set the mark in the final round of his victory at Oakmont in 1973.
 
Singh has been vilified by some for his anti-Annika remarks, yet he continues to show no signs of distraction on the course. He won the Nelson and then skipped the Colonial ' for which he was further criticized, and went on to say he wouldnt enter the interview room unless he was leading an event or won it. He returned at the Memorial, two weeks ago, and tied for fourth.
 
I have focused on what Im doing, and thats playing the golf course and golf tournaments, he said. And I dont read too much newspapers. I just dont let things like that bother me.
 
Aside from the obvious encounter at the 14th Friday, fans at Olympia Fields didnt seem to harbor any ill feelings towards him. He was greeted with a thunderous applause when he capped off his round.
 
It felt like the last day of the Open, he said. The ovation on 17 was bigger than the one on the 18th.
 
While Singh is looking to add the third leg of the Grand Slam to his resume ' he won the 1998 PGA Championship and 2000 Masters ' Furyk is seeking his first major victory.
 
I put myself in great position, he said. Now my goal is to get myself in a good position for late Sunday.
 
Woods feels the same way. He is trying to become the first player since Curtis Strange, in 1988 and 89, to successfully defend his title. Friday, he furthered his cause by making six birdies and two bogeys. He failed to make a birdie in the first round.
 
I hit the ball a little bit better. Its a little bit easier to score when youre in the fairway, said Woods, who improved his fairways hit from six in the first round to 10 in round two.
 
All you have to do, just keep yourself in the red and keep moving up. Its always tougher on the weekend.
 
Watson wasnt able to conjure up his opening-round magic, but the 53-year-old kept alive the opportunity to claim major No. 9.
 
Yes, I can, the 1982 champion replied when asked if he could still win this event. A lot of things have to go my waybut I have a chance.
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Open Home
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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.”