Sunday Nervous Sunday

By Mercer BaggsJune 18, 2005, 4:00 pm
Its Sunday. Its a major. Youre in contention.
Even your nerves are nervous.
Phil Mickelson
The pressure of trying to win a major championship can get the better of even the best players.
Theres nothing quite like being in one of the final groups in the final round in a major championship. Its a feeling every player would love to experience. But one which not everyone knows how to handle.
How do you handle this, the biggest day of your professional career?
It varies from player to player. Its based in personality. It can depend on experience.
You ask a hundred different guys and youll get a hundred different answers, said Brad Faxon. I dont think theres any right or wrong way to handle it.
The waiting may be the hardest part.
Before last years U.S. Open, Retief Goosen was up before 8:00 in the morning. The 54-hole leader, he wasnt scheduled to tee off until seven hours later.
He said he tried to bide his time by playing with his son and watching movies: Alien 3 or whatever it was. Ghostbusters, he said with a laugh.
Jim Furyk tried a similar routine when he was in Goosens position a year prior.
It was a little tougher than I expected, he said after winning the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. The worst part about today was the 3:00 tee time, and waking up at 8:00, 8:30 in the morning ' trying to figure out what I was going to do to kill the time until 12:30, 12:45 when I wanted to leave for the golf course.
I watched a movie this morning. My daughter was running all over the place. But I was pretty much quiet, and I think my family sensed that I was tight this morning. No one really said a word to me, and that was probably all the better for me, because I was pretty nervous.
That same year, Chad Campbell found himself in the final twosome alongside Shaun Micheel at the PGA Championship.
Campbells recipe for wasting away the day is simple: I like to sleep as much as I can, he said.
But even he found his preferred method of killing time an impossible endeavor when contending on a major Sunday.
You have all that extra time to deal with, he said. Even I cant sleep that long.
That was Campbells first experience in such a situation, which means he may better know how to manage the day when it comes again.
Ernie Els has had plenty of those days. The first one came in the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont.
I think I had a two-shot lead. Obviously, I was very nervous, he said. Youre always pretty nervous. Youre pretty tense.
Faxon also felt the nerves and the tension in '94, when he held a share of the 54-hole lead at the British Open. He couldnt keep his mind from racing that Sunday. He finished with a 3-over 73 and tied for seventh.
Youre thinking about the fact that you want to get out there and play. Youre thinking about how youve played. Youre thinking about what you want to do. Youre thinking about everything, he said.
At some point during the day, prior to actually hitting that first official shot, the nerves will subside. Theyll wear themselves out and need an early-afternoon nap. But theyll be back.
Because after youve settled down a bit, had a bite to eat, hit a few balls; its go time.
Then not only do you have to find a way to appease those reawakened nerves; you have to execute golf shots under the most extreme conditions.
Probably the most difficult thing about it is the emotion, said Sergio Garcia. Although you might be in contention, you might have a chance to win; youre going to get excited. But you dont want to get too excited.
Even the most experienced and accomplished players get overly anxious when trying to win a major championship. And even they cant put those nerves in a box and hide them away. Instead, theyve learned to try and embrace the edge.
I think that you never really get comfortable, but you start to enjoy the nervous feeling, that excitement, that uncertainty, said 2004 Masters champion Phil Mickelson. Instead of fearing it, you start to enjoy it.
Such a transformation can only come through experience. Thats why you expect Goosen to win come Sunday evening, and not Olin Browne or Jason Gore.
The former knows what it takes to win a major championship. He knows how to handle those nerves. He knows how to keep his composure. And he knows these things because he's experienced it all before ' time and time and time again. And he's overcome it.
Its putting yourself there many times, said nine-time major champion Tiger Woods. If you put yourself up there, youre going to have failures. But then again, if you put yourself up there enough times, youre going to have successes, too. The whole idea is to put yourself there time and time and time again. Eventually, the odds are in your favor.
The more youre in it, the more comfortable you get, said three-time major champion Vijay Singh. You get butterflies, but you kind of focus in on what youre doing.
Of course, experience in these situations is no guarantee for victory. Just ask Todd Hamilton or Ben Curtis or Shaun Micheel.
Nerves can be overwhelming. They can override all other faculties. See Tiger playing the final two holes of regulation in this years Masters. See Justin Leonard trying to close out last years PGA Championship. See Els and Singh and Norman and Palmer, and even Sorenstam at some point in their careers. Even the greatest of the greats had to let their nerves and the pressure of winning a major championship get the best of them at some point. Regardless of what we are led to believe, Jack Nicklaus didnt always make every putt he had to.
As Micheel, the '03 PGA champion, said: I think the fear of the unknown frightens all of us.
Its Sunday. Its a major. Youre in contention. Even your nerves are nervous.
Now how are you going to handle it?
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
Related links:
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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.”