Newsmaker of the Year, No. 10: Donald Trump

By Randall MellDecember 8, 2015, 8:00 pm

Donald Trump’s arrival at the Ricoh Women’s British Open this summer captured the nature of his increasingly awkward relationship with golf’s ruling bodies.

Invested in the game more than ever before, with his presidential bid taking his profile to new dimensions, Trump towered over golf in 2015 in ways that put the sport’s governing bodies in uncomfortable positions.

Trump’s shadow practically engulfed the Turnberry Ailsa course after the start of the first round of the Women’s British Open in late July.

Trump owns the Turnberry resort and course, and so he took time to fly to Scotland to watch the major championship in the midst of his presidential campaign. Trump was the biggest star on the property and so much bigger than the event itself. The proof was in the fact that there were more photographers awaiting his arrival outside the front gate of the Turnberry course than there were inside covering the action. Even the TV cameraman perched above the 18th green whirled his camera in the opposite direction of play to catch Trump’s arrival by helicopter.

This was after Trump’s pilot circled the course before landing with the first round in progress.

“Everyone’s asking me to be here,” Trump said. “The tour has asked me. The world has asked me to be here.”

In a paparazzi-style reception, Trump’s arrival was as chaotic as it was surreal for a major championship golf setting.

Why are you here? Won’t your presence detract from the golf tournament? Are you a racist?


Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015: The full list


Those were some of the questions British media shouted to Trump as he stepped out of his helicopter. The question about racism was a reaction to controversial remarks Trump made about Mexico and border control. Trump’s stance on illegal immigration and his feud with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly after she asked him about sexist comments put golf’s governing bodies under pressure to respond.

While Trump’s passion and commitment to the sport are valued, and while his growing collection of prestigious golf properties are being targeted for more major events, Trump’s strong personality and opinions put the LPGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour and USGA in difficult positions with sponsors and other supporters within the game.

After the controversy over his comments about Mexican immigration, Trump told Golf Channel that the golf industry supports him because “they all know I’m right.” Golf’s governing bodies quickly responded to that on July 1.

“We feel compelled to clarify that those remarks do not reflect the views of our organizations. While the LPGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour and USGA do not usually comment on presidential politics, Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” those golf governing bodies said in a joint statement.

Trump owns 17 golf courses around the world, including Trump Turnberry and Trump Doral, home to the PGA Tour’s regular stop, the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. is scheduled to host the U.S. Women’s Open in 2017 and the PGA Championship in 2022. His Trump National Golf Club in Washington, D.C., is set to host the Senior PGA Championship in 2017.

The PGA announced in July that the organization and Trump had mutually agreed to move the PGA’s Grand Slam of Golf away from Trump National in Los Angeles. The event was set for October but was eventually canceled.

After LPGA commissioner Mike Whan announced his organization would prefer to play the Women’s British Open somewhere other than Turnberry if time permitted a move, Trump fired back, offering to let the event’s organizers out of their contract. Trump called Whan’s statement “nasty” and “an extraordinary disservice to women’s golf.” Trump later said Whan apologized and the two worked out any differences.

USGA executive director Mike Davis said in July he wasn’t sure what his organization was going to do about plans to play the U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National in New Jersey in ‘17.

“We are evaluating things,” Davis said. “It’s a complicated matter, and we want to get it right. The key is, we want golf to be very welcoming and open. Anything that hurts that is not good.”

Trump’s strong will influences golf at the highest level, even beyond his politics. After Trump’s major renovation of Doral’s Blue Monster, players grumbled about architect Gil Hanse’s redesign overly favoring the game’s biggest hitters during the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March. Trump agreed to modify the course with changes to be made mostly to bunkering before next year’s event.

Trump likes having his shadow fall over golf, and he likes having partnerships with the USGA, the PGA of America and the PGA Tour. He loves the game, but even he seems curious if, ultimately, the game is going to love him back.

“I have been very loyal to golf,” Trump told the New York Times in July. “We will see whether or not golf is loyal to me.”

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.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm