Bunker Shots Are birdies galore enough at the Bob Hope Classic

By Randall MellJanuary 19, 2010, 7:53 pm
Blasting into the week ahead, from the PGA Tour's challenge holding off Europe's Middle East swing to another week in Hawaii.

'Cancel My Reservation' was one of the more than 60 movies Bob Hope made in his lifetime.
Of all his films, that title might best describe what is becoming the theme of the golf tournament that bears his name.

Hope was such a giant star in his time, but his tournament is mostly starless this week in LaQuinta, Calif.

Mike Weir is the highest ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking scheduled to play when action begins Wednesday. He’s No. 37.

Even Anthony Kim, who can call this a hometown event as a LaQuinta High graduate, is passing this week to play the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Ouch. There’s appearance money to be collected at Abu Dhabi, where such advantages show in the strength of that event’s field. Abu Dhabi’s the tournament to watch this week with five of the top 10 in the world competing and eight of the top 14.

Stance: The Bob Hope Classic’s days feel numbered with the PGA Tour looking for a new title sponsor with Chrysler out. It marks the first time since 1984 the tournament will be staged without a title sponsor. Arnold Palmer couldn’t revive interest returning in a temporary role as host of the 50th anniversary last year. Phil Mickelson, a West Coast guy who has more than met requirements playing there over the years, is avoiding the event for a third straight season. Kim’s decision to skip a tournament in his backyard might be remembered as the last nail in the coffin if this event doesn’t survive. The celebrity format with amateur partners obviously isn’t as popular with players anymore. The decision to bring in Yogi Berra as host was curious. He’s a beloved Yankee Hall of Famer, but he’s 84 years old and. The event could use some radically fresh, vibrant ideas to hold off the growing popularity of the European Tour’s Middle East swing. Justin Timberlake’s fall series event in Las Vegas would love to move among golf’s main events.  

Takeaway: David Duval makes his first PGA Tour start of the season this week on a sponsor’s exemption after failing to keep his fully exempt status last season. The Hope is where he shot 59 in the final round in 1999 to win. If there’s still some magic in him, this might be the place to find it, though it’s an upset if he actually contends there. Duval has missed the cut at the Bob Hope the last two seasons and said his terrific run at the U.S. Open last year might be due to the fact that he’s better suited now for tough setups than birdie fests. Duval shot three 68s and a 70 at the Hope and still missed the cut last year.

Bunker shot: If you like birdie fests, you haven’t tired of the Bob Hope Classic. If you’re waiting for the Tour’s next 59, or maybe its first 58, this is still an event for you. Pat Perez won at 33-under last year. Joe Durant’s 36-under total in ’01 remains the lowest score in PGA Tour history. It’s five rounds and 90 holes of attack-style golf.

Abu Dhabi Championship

Five of the top-10 players in the world rankings are scheduled to play the European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates beginning Thursday.

Geoff Ogilvy, winner of the PGA Tour’s season opening SBS Championship, is in the field. So is Lee Westwood, winner of the inaugural Race to Dubai last season. Paul Casey’s back as defending champion looking to prove he’s recovered from the rib injury that derailed his impressive start last season.

Expect some Ryder Cup buzz with European captain Colin Montgomerie making his first start of 2010.

Stance: South African Charl Schwartzel was entered with a chance to become the first player since Seve Ballesteros (1986) to win three consecutive European Tour events, but Schwartzel announced Monday that he was withdrawing to rest. He’ll try to win his third consecutive start when he tees it up at the Qatar Masters next week.

Takeaway: There are appealing storylines with Sergio Garcia, Camilo Villegas, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter among international stars making their 2010 debuts this week. Garcia and Villegas are looking to rebound from drop offs last season with McIlroy and Poulter looking to build on momentum gained last season.

Bunker shot: Westwood opens the 2010 season as the highest ranked international player in the world at No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking, but is he even Europe’s best player? Northern Ireland’s Padraig Harrington looks eager to add to his three major championship triumphs before Westwood reaches his first. Though Westwood seems like he’s been around forever, he’s only 36, which is a golfer’s prime. He climbed to No. 4 in the world a decade ago, but he fell into such a demoralizing slump he tumbled to No. 246 before fighting his way back. The Englishman held off McIlroy to win the Race to Dubai last season. Optimism that Westwood might be ready for a major championship breakthrough can be found in his record. He has three third-place finishes in majors over the last two years. He was third at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in ‘08, and he tied for third in both the British Open at Turnberry and the PGA Championship at Hazeltine last year.

Mitsubishi Electric Championship

Fred Couples makes his highly anticipated debut in an official Champions Tour event Friday at the Hualalai Resort in Hawaii. So does U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin.

If you’re looking for big names to watch, there will be more of them there than at the Bob Hope Classic.

Tom Watson, Gary Player, Bernhard Langer, Curtis Strange, Ben Crenshaw and Nick Price are among those in the 36-player field.

Stance: With Jack Nicklaus teaming with Watson to win the Wendy’s Champions Skins Game last weekend, the Champions Tour season got off to a special start. It was fitting that a Palmer (Ryan, that is) won the same weekend in Hawaii on the PGA Tour.

Takeaway: Bernhard Langer is back as defending champion with Loren Roberts looking to make a strong start on a bid to win back-to-back Charles Schwab Cup titles. If Roberts pulls that off at year’s end, he’ll have claimed the season points title three of the last four years.

Bunker shot: The Champions Tour will never rival the PGA Tour’s popularity, but there’s a real chance to elevate interest with Couples in the mix. He’s still a major draw who can win headlines and highlights the Champions Tour wouldn’t otherwise get should he become a force on the senior circuit. The big question is whether his back will hold up as he looks to play both the Champions Tour and PGA Tour this year before dedicating himself more heavily to the Champions Tour next year.
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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 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.”