Bunker Shots Home of a Monster and Trumps playground

By Randall MellMarch 9, 2010, 7:21 pm
Blasting into the week ahead, from the home of a Monster to Trump's playground . . .

WGC-CA Championship

Feverish, shaky and drenched in cold sweat . . .

No, that isn’t how PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has been waking mornings since Tiger Woods drove into a neighbor’s fire hydrant three months ago. It’s how Phil Mickelson felt sleeping on the 54-hole lead the last time the WGC-CA Championship was staged at Doral.
phil mickelson doral 2009
Phil Mickelson battled food poisoning en route to winning at Doral in 2009. This year his issue is undiagnosed. (Getty Images)
Mickelson won at Doral despite suffering from a bout of food poisoning on the eve of last year’s final round.

Mickelson is back to defend his title at what’s now being called the TPC Blue Monster at Doral, and there’s something ailing him again. He’s been sluggish, out-of-sorts and just not himself so far this season. This time he appears to be suffering from a bout of ordinary golf, a malady far more difficult to win with than food poisoning.

Longtime fans of Doral’s PGA Tour stop are fighting a sickening feel, too. The event begins with CA having yet to announce it will renew title sponsorship after its contract runs out at the end of this week.

Stance: If you stuck a thermometer in Lefty’s mouth, you might detect some frost. Mickelson’s gone cold. In fact, you can argue this is the coldest he’s been in a decade upon his arrival for the Florida Swing. That’s more a testament to Mickelson’s past success on the West Coast Swing than an indictment of his uninspired form this season. In four starts, Mickelson’s logged one top-10 finish. We know Mickelson can get off to slow starts, but this is his slowest since 2000, when he didn’t have a top 10 in his first five starts. With Woods on the shelf, Mickelson’s failed to capitalize on an opportunity to gain ground on the world’s No. 1. Of course, it’s all about the majors for Lefty, and he’s still got a month to heat up for the Masters.

Takeaway: Hurry up, fellas. It looks like the money grab in World Golf Championship events is winding down with news that Woods is intensifying his work at Isleworth for a possible return. You could argue that Woods skipping the CA Championship is akin to tournament officials announcing they’re adding $1,530,000 to the purse. That’s the first-place check Woods would be eyeing if he were in the field. Woods is far more a sure thing in WGC events than he is in majors. Throw out the two-man team World Cups that were staged as WGC events, and 33 WGC tournaments have been played since they were initiated in 1999. Woods has won more than half of them. He’s won as many WGC titles (17) as Curtis Strange won PGA Tour titles. He has more WGC titles than Tom Weiskopf (16), Ernie Els (16) and Mark O’Meara (16) have PGA Tour titles.

Bunker shot: Best player never to win a WGC title? Mickelson took his name out of that mix last year winning the CA Championship and the HSBC Champions. Who does that leave? Sergio Garcia isn’t just in the running for best player never to win a major, he’s also never won a WGC title. Neither have Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Jim Furyk.

Puerto Rico Open

Breakthroughs and comebacks.

That’s the theme that has quickly developed in this third-year event at Trump International Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.

That makes it a perfect place for John Daly, 43, to show he’s got one last meaningful run in him.

Greg Kraft, whose career was nearly derailed by “Valley Fever,” won the inaugural event two years ago. Michael Bradley, who struggled with back injuries and other physical woes for almost a decade, won last year for his third PGA Tour title, his first in 11 years.

Stance: Daly’s determination and perseverance continue to impress. Within 24 hours after a published report revealed contents of his PGA Tour personnel file detailing his bad-boy antics, Daly set out to add to the 456-page file. He tweeted the cell phone number of the sportswriter who filed the story, calling him a jerk while encouraging his fans to “call and flood his line.” Daly, who has been cited 21 times in his career for failing to give his best effort, never seems to tire hitting shots out of bounds.

Takeaway: The twentysomethings have mounted a nice run on the PGA Tour this season with Camilo Villegas, Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas winning events. While this tournament has belonged exclusively to fortysomethings – Kraft was 43 when he won it, Bradley 42 – there’s one Young Gun who seems poised to keep the twentysomething run going. Alex Prugh (25) has three top 10s in his first six starts this season.

Bunker shot: Boo Weekley might want to abandon his camouflage clothing. It’s working too well. The likeable fifth-year PGA Tour pro hasn’t been seen on a leaderboard in a long spell. He hasn’t recorded a top 10 in more than a year. A two-time PGA Tour winner, Weekley last cracked the top 10 at the Sony Open last year. Weekley, who memorably rode his driver like it was a Derby contender down the first fairway at Valhalla during the last Ryder Cup, struggled with a bad shoulder last year and has slipped to 72nd on the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. Weekley’s missed on golf’s biggest stages but has a chance to right his game on a smaller stage this week.

Getty Images

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.”