Wanted: Daly's big name and a big game

By Mercer BaggsMay 8, 2016, 11:04 pm

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – Amid a stiffening wind and under ever-darkening clouds, John Daly made his way around the U-shaped fence surrounding the scoring area at The Woodlands Country Club.

One by one, he signed autographs and was peppered with encouragement. Some seeking his signature likely had no idea he had just triple-bogeyed the 17th hole.

“Thanks for coming out.”

“Seven birdies today, John!”

“Welcome to the tour, man.”

“You’ll get ‘em, JD!”

However much was absorbed is unknown. Daly exited stage right without sharing his thoughts with writers and print media (though he did talk to Golf Channel TV reporters).

It was an exhausting and entertaining PGA Tour Champions debut for Daly. He played four pro-ams and 54 holes of tournament golf, fulfilled who-knows-how-many sponsor obligations, and provided as many fans as he possibly could with an autograph or a photograph.

The Insperity Invitational routinely draws a good crowd, particularly on Saturdays, when it hosts the 3M Greats of Golf – a scramble event featuring nine legends of the game. Daly’s appearance, however, secured more fans throughout the week.

Hundreds followed him on Day 1, maybe a little less on Day 2 (many were watching the Greats), and Day 3 was more subdued, but still impressive by tour standards.



Official attendance records aren’t kept, because tickets aren’t sold. Fans got in free thanks to the funds of corporate sponsors.

It was never a madhouse, but it wasn’t a “freak show,” either. Kenny Perry used the latter term earlier in the year to describe the way, in his opinion, fans and media view the PGA Tour Champions, saying the circuit doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

A steady diet of a competitive Daly can help change that.

A good example: Ten minutes after Daly teed off in the final round, Perry’s group was announced on the first tee. The hundred-plus people who once were there, outside the ropes and under the shaded seating, were now up the fairway. Less than 30 fans remained.

High-profile players are key to the tour’s popularity.

Officials know that, using a system that takes into account PGA Tour wins, major victories and career earnings in determining a player’s status.

Card members know it. No one had a negative thing to say about Daly’s arrival, knowing that his presence increases interest. Increased interest helps the tour, which benefits all involved.

And the guys who used to carry the tour know it.

The biggest concern is, outside of Daly, where are the big draws? Davis Love III won last year on the regular tour and is competing full time, also so he can stay connected to potential members of his U.S. Ryder Cup team. Vijay Singh has played seven career senior events. Fred Couples has only played in two this year. Greg Norman and Nick Faldo don’t play at all.

There are recognizable names and faces who transition to the elder circuit ever year. The potential 2017 crop includes: Jerry Kelly, David Toms, Steve Stricker and Steve Flesch. But will they draw a crowd?

As Hale Irwin, who won more Champions events (45) than anyone, pointed out, the biggest names in today’s game are in their early-20s. “There’s a lot of players in between [22 years old and 50],” Irwin said. “And how many of them are we, collectively, focused on? That’s part of the issue.”

And when a big name does become eligible, like Ernie Els will be in late 2019 or Phil Mickelson in the summer of 2020, is there a desire to play?

In 1990, Lee Trevino won more money ($1,190,518) on the senior tour than leading money winner Greg Norman did ($1,165,477) on the PGA Tour. Gary Player pointed that out. Irwin also noted that he accomplished the same feat in 1997, out-earning Tiger Woods, $2,343,364 to $2,066,823.

Of course, Woods turned the compensatory system on its ear.  Bernhard Langer won $2,340,288 to lead all seniors last season. Jordan Spieth earned $12,030,465, officially, and then some on the regular tour.

“Will it be driven by money? Absolutely not. They’re going to have enough money,” Irwin said of a player’s motivation to play full time on the PGA Tour Champions. “Will it be driven by competitive fires? Most likely.”

And if that desire burns, it might keep them challenging the younger set. “If they can still play, you don’t blame them for doing it,” Dave Stockton said.

The PGA Tour Champions is not the Senior PGA Tour. The newer version has lots of skill, plenty of competitiveness and its share of Hall of Fame players. But it’s missing those older faces.

Saturday’s scramble, which included Jack Nicklaus, Player, Trevino, Irwin, Stockton, Ben Crenshaw, Tony Jacklin, David Graham and Tom Weiskopf, was the week’s biggest draw. On this tour, in the eyes of fans, nostalgia trumps true competition.

In an ideal world, you’d get both and maybe Daly can provide that but, “It’s not going to be easy for him,” Trevino said.

“[A player] came up to me a couple, three or four years ago, and he says to me, ‘You know, I didn’t know it was this difficult to win out here. … and it was Mark O’Meara. Mark thought he was going to come out here and just march right through everyone, and it’s difficult.”

“It’s all up to John,” Nicklaus said. “How well he does is up to him.”

Daly wasn’t expecting much this week. He likely would have taken a top-20 finish (he tied for 17th), if offered to him on Thursday. He played almost as many competitive rounds this week as he had all year, missing the cut in the Qatar Masters and the Puerto Rico Open.

Now comes the interesting part. Daly, who hasn’t had full-time status on the PGA Tour since the end of 2006, plans to play a full Champions schedule. He is slated to compete in nine of the next 10 tournaments on the calendar – in addition to starts at the Open Championship and PGA Championship.

If he can avoid injury and fatigue, he should continue to draw support. And if he can find a way to contend, it will be an even bigger boost to the tour.

Wading through the crowd late Sunday afternoon, having bypassed the print press, Daly quickly paced into the sanctuary of the clubhouse.

When Daly threw an iron into Lake Michigan at last year’s PGA Championship, he said it was a sign of how much he cared.

Maybe this was another one of those signs.

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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 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.”

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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.

LPGA:

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.