Verplank Still Scoring at Byron Nelson
Verplank tied his career low round of 62 at the par-70 Cottonwood Valley Course in Irving, TX. At 8-under-par, Verplank is two shots clear of his nearest competitors, David Duval, Tim Herron and Chris Riley, all of whom shot 64.
Tiger Woods, making his first start since winning his fourth straight major at the Masters, is four off the pace after opening in 4-under-par 66.
All of the leaders took advantage of the easier of the two courses in rotation this week. In fact, 20 of the top 21 names on the leaderboard played Cottonwood Valley on Thursday.
Friday, theyll get a taste of the host course, the TPC at Las Colinas, which is the sole course in play over the third and final rounds.
Youve got to play well on this course with the soft conditions, said Woods, who owns a share of the Cottonwood course record ' a 61 in the first round in 1999.
The wind seems to blow a little bit more on the other course. Here, hills and houses shelter and block the wind.
Though he got off to a good start with a pair of birdies over his first three holes, Woods was still just trying to shake off the rust from a four-week layoff.
It took a little while to get into a competitive flow, Woods said.
Two-under through seven holes, Woods blocked his tee shot on the par-4 8th into the right trees. He then failed to reach the fairway on his second shot and eventually carded a double bogey 6.
However, Tiger responded by birdieing the par-3 9th.
For good measure, the 1997 Nelson champion carded three more birdies on his inward half for a round of 66.
I was pleased with the way I hit it, Woods said. I hit a lot of good shots. I was really surprised with my touch around the green. Usually when youre off for a while, thats the toughest thing to get back ' your touch.
While thousands flocked and climbed trees to watch Woods, the unassuming Verplank climbed his way to the top of the leaderboard.
The 36-year-old has yet to win in 2001, though he does have three top-4 finishes and ranks 27th on the tour in earnings with over $750,000.
Verplank is coming off a career-best season a year ago; one in which he won the Reno-Tahoe Open and over $1.7 million.
Friday, he made his way around Cottonwood Valley sans bogey. His day included eight birdies, two of which came courtesy of 25-foot putts and one from a holed bunker shot.
Obviously, I played very well, said Verplank. I got lucky a couple of times, made a couple of long putts. You know, the conditions kind of got a little tougher as the day went on because the wind was picking up, but the greens are pretty soft and not very fast, so you can take advantage of it.
Born in nearby Dallas, Verplank has a history with the tournament and its host.
Verplank was a standard bearer before carrying scoring signs was fashionable. He worked the event in his early teens when it was held at Preston Trail Golf Club, where he is now a member.
While Verplank toted the sign, his mom kept group scores. It was through his mom, and the fact that he was one of the areas top junior players, that Verplank was first introduced to Byron Nelson.
He called me and asked me if Id like to help ' him help me a little bit. Well yeah. Sure, Verplank recalled.
I probably got to play with him a dozen times when I was in high school and college. It was great.
Great would aptly describe Rileys finish on Thursday. The third-year tour member birdied his final three holes at Cottonwood Valley to match his career-low round on tour.
I feel good about everything. Im driving it good. Im hitting my irons good. The only thing Im a little shaky on is my putting, Riley said. I know its there. I just gotta go work it out.
Putting didnt appear to be a problem down the stretch. Riley rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on 17 and a 15-footer on 18.
Putting caused Duval problems earlier in the season, and then injuries took over. An ailing back and tendinitis in his right wrist have teamed to help keep Duval out of the 2001 winners circle.
Like Riley, Duval made his way around Cottonwood Valley to the tune of six birdies and no bogeys. Of those six birdies, none were longer than eight feet.
It was just like last week, Duval said. I hit it close today and that makes a big difference. I didnt make a long putt all day, didnt have to.
News, Notes and Numbers
*David Peoples was the only player inside the top-20 after the first round who played on the TPC at Las Colinas. Peoples shot 4-under-par 66 to tie for 9th place.
*The par-70 Cottonwood Valley Course played to an overall average of 69.179. The par-70 TPC at Las Colinas first-round scoring average was 70.987.
*Australian Geoff Ogilvy was disqualified for continuing to use a putter that was damaged other than in the normal course of play (Rule 4-3b). Ogilvy could not be reached for comment, but it was assumed the damage inflicted on his putter happened shortly after No. 3, where he took a triple bogey.
Full-field scores from the Verizon Byron Nelson Classic
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
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
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
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.
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
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.”