What a Love-ly Performance

By Mercer BaggsMarch 30, 2003, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Chase your own potential.
Those are the words written on a yellow legal pad sitting in a drawer in Davis Love IIIs motor home.

Love met his own potential Sunday at The Players Championship, winning the event in oh-so-ever-impressive fashion.
With winds gusting up to 25 mph and temperatures dropping into the low 50s, Love fired a flawless 8-under 64. He used five straight birdies and one emphatic eagle en route to claiming his second career victory in the event referred to as the fifth major.
'I certainly know it's the best round of golf I've ever played. I dont think I could have done a better job,' Love said. It was definitely one of the biggest challenges of my career, because I certainly didnt need another near miss.
Love finished at 17-under-par 271, a full six strokes lower than overnight co-leaders Padraig Harrington (72) and Jay Haas (72). Robert Allenby (65) and Jim Furyk (69) tied for fourth at 10-under.
Love, who won this event in 1992, birdied Nos. 8-12 Sunday to clear the top of a congested leaderboard at the TPC at Sawgrass.
Leading by three, he pulled his ball into the rough at the 507-yard par-5 16th. With water guarding the green on the right, he hit a 197-yard 6-iron to 10 feet. That putt gave him a five-shot advantage, and two closing pars gave him the title.
The win is Loves 16th on the PGA Tour, and easily his most important ' and most impressive ' since the 1997 PGA Championship.
Id say (the feeling) is on equal footing with Winged Foot, Love said. Ive been building up for this and been improving.
Love is continuing to accomplish the goals he set at the beginning of the season. His talks with sports psychologist Bob Rotella ' who inspired the words on his legal pad, combined with his increase in health and attitude have put him in the familiar position he desires.
This off-season, I said Im going to feel better, play better, be more dedicated to what Im doing because Im in the prime of my career. Im not on the downside of my career, he said.
His $1,170,000 payday is the biggest in his 17-year career, eclipsing the $900,000 he made for winning this years AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Its also the fourth time hes recorded a multiple-win season on tour.
Though Pebble provided Love with a measure of confidence, negative thoughts of the Honda Classic still lingered in his mind. Two weeks ago, he entered the final round leading Justin Leonard by one, only to make eight pars and one bogey on the back nine to lose by a shot.
I was putting all the thoughts into why I didnt win at Mirasol or why I didnt win here or there and put them behind me and just played golf, said Love.
This time, he was among the hunters; two back of Harrington and Haas. In all, 14 players were within six strokes of the lead heading to Sunday, but few of the favorites factored into the final outcome.
Craig Perks, trying to become the first player in tournament history to successfully defend his title, never got a chance to display any closing dramatics this Sunday.
Just two off the lead at the start of the day, he shot himself out of the tournament early with a bogey at the third and a triple bogey at the fourth. Perks shot 76 to finish in a tie for 17th at 5-under.
The fourth hole also took care of 2001 champion Tiger Woods.
Woods ordered a standing ovation by making a 20-foot eagle putt at the par-5 second. He was just three off the lead at that point. But thats as close as he would get.
From the middle of the fairway at No. 4, just 121 yards from the hole, Woods inexplicably plunked his approach shot into the water, short of the green, and made double bogey.
Another eagle at 16 gave him two on the day, but they didnt outnumber his water balls.
Tiger hit into the middle of the lake at the par-5 11th for a bogey, and came up short and wet at the par-3 17th for a second double. He tied for 11th at 6-under. It is his first finish on tour outside of the top 10 since tying for 28th in the British Open, 12 starts ago.
I could have stayed home and it would have been the same score, said Woods after shooting even-par 72. Instead I came out here and created a few more gray hairs.
Woods, who has won three events in five starts this season, will next vie for an unprecedented third consecutive Masters victory.
Fred Couples, who played alongside Love, couldnt trade punches with his good friend. The two-time winner of this event (1984 and 96) carded a 74 to finish alone in 10th at 7-under. Disappointed in his performance, he left in awe of Loves.
He estimates that he has played some 150 rounds of golf with Love, but never before had he seen him perform the way he did on Sunday ' or anyone else for that matter.
'That was by far the best round I have ever seen played,' said Couples, who teamed with Love to win four consecutive World Cups (1992-95). 'I never thought anyone could shoot 64 in those conditions.'
Early morning rain retired by the afternoon, but the wind only gained strength as the day wore on.
Two back of Haas at the time, Love birdied the 222-yard, par-3 eighth after sticking his tee shot inside of three feet. He then made a five-footer for birdie at 9; a six-foot birdie at 10; a seven-foot birdie at 11, and a 21-footer at 12.
His run ended at the par-3 13th, but by then that was all he needed. He played the back nine in 5-under 31.
'That's as nervous as I've ever been,' he said. 'If that's what the back nine of a major championship feels like with a lead, at least I know how it feels now.'
Harrington could blame his demise on a balky driver. He hit only six of 14 fairways on the day, which contributed greatly to his missing seven greens in regulation.
Haas was far steadier for most of his round. The 49-year-old, seeking his first triumph since the 1993 Texas Open, made birdies on 11 and 13 to get within two of the lead.
At the par-4 15th, however, Haas missed his first fairway since the first hole. He had to pitch out and eventually made bogey. He made another at 16.
Haas was in jeopardy of dropping a shot at 18 as well, but made an 18-foot par save to secure a share of second. Though he didn't win, Haas made enough money to jump to sixth on the season money list, thus qualifying for The Masters for the first time since 2000.
After realizing I wasnt going to win, to finish as high as I could was the object, Haas said. I just think the fact that I keep accomplishing some of my goals here, it makes it a little bit better.
The same holds true for Love.
'I'm back to where I was when I was picked as a guy that had a chance to win Augusta,' he said.
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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.


    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.


    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.