Bunker Shots Magic and Mojo

By Randall MellSeptember 28, 2010, 4:32 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from Ryder Cup magic and mojo to rank-and-file angst.

Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup

Chemistry matters.

Camaraderie, too.

Such notions seemed overplayed within the boundaries of team golf, and then along came Paul Azinger with his pod system.

Azinger’s social game planning as American Ryder Cup captain two years ago was strong evidence that maybe team bonding really does make a difference. His structured, almost formulaic approach to team building was the story behind the American victory at Valhalla. Without superstar Tiger Woods, the United States ended its three-event losing streak to Europe looking more like brothers-in-arms than they ever have.

Some of us believed hot putters trump kindred spirits every time, but Azinger changed the nature of the debate. He made us wonder if camaraderie can serve as a fireplace for stoking hot starts. He made us wonder if you can create momentum before the first putt drops.

And now here comes European captain Colin Montgomerie, determined to show there’s another intangible important in the creation of winning momentum.

Montgomeries believes an inspiring speech can stoke a hot start.

“The Ryder Cup begins not with the first shot, but the speeches the two captains make at the opening ceremony,” Montgomerie told the Daily Mail of London. “There's definitely a game that goes on between the captains, and it seems to make a difference psychologically, as to what happens when the action begins.”

Montgomerie alluded to American Hal Sutton and European Nick Faldo for making speeches that failed to inspire.

“It's part of a trend, where the team whose captain gives the best speech tends to start well the next day and that sets the tone for the match itself.” Montgomerie said. “I know how important it is from how it made me feel. In 2004, Bernhard Langer gave a brilliant, ambassadorial speech and we lost only one-and-a-half points on the opening day. Azinger gave the best American speech in recent times and his team came flying out of the blocks.

“So my job is to make sure my team leaves that opening ceremony on Thursday, and they're thinking to themselves: 'Captain Monty, I think we're going to be all right in his hands.'”

Oddly, Montgomerie confessed he enters this Ryder Cup having already prepared both a winning and losing speech.

Camaraderie, bonding, inspired speeches.

Their effects are impossible to truly measure. And yet if this Ryder Cup comes down to a single missed putt, it’s likely the multiple autopsies sure to follow will offer up some profound psychological reason the putt fell or didn’t fall.

Bunker shot: First, there was speculation American captain Corey Pavin might not choose Tiger Woods as a captain’s pick if Woods didn’t make the team on points. Then Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy announced that he would love to play Woods in the Ryder Cup and that every European player would “fancy his chances” against the slumping Woods. Just last week, NBC’s Johnny Miller pointed out that Woods has failed to lead in Ryder Cups. And now, there’s speculation Woods might spend some time on the bench for the first time in his Ryder Cup career. The world’s No. 1 player arrives in Wales with a large supply of the best fuel in sports: disrespect.

Mell’s pick: Europe wins 14 ½ to 13 ½.

  • Course: Celtic Manor’s The Twenty Ten Course, Newport Wales. Par 71, 7,378 yards.
  • Purse: None.
  • TV times: Friday, ESPN, 2:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (ET); Saturday, NBC, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. (ET, tape delay); Sunday, NBC, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. (ET).
  • Last time: The Americans rallied without Tiger Woods, ending a three-event losing streak with a 16 ½ to 11 ½ victory against the Europeans.

PGA TOURPGA Tour (75x100)

Viking Classic

A week after the FedEx Cup Playoffs end, the PGA Tour gets back to basics with the first of five Fall Series events.

Golf’s rank-and-file get serious about the business of securing PGA Tour cards for 2011.

Sean O’Hair is the only player among the top 60 in the world rankings in the field this week. He’s No. 25. Heath Slocum is the next highest ranked player teeing it up at No. 61. Count John Daly, David Duval, David Toms, Charles Howell III, Rocco Mediate and Boo Weekley among the biggest names in the event.

Bunker shot: It’s Bubble Boy season. The Fall Series begins with Chris Stroud as Mr. Bubble Boy at No. 125 on the money list. He’ll try to hold that spot through the season finale, the Children’s Miracle Network Classic (Nov. 11-14). The biggest names outside the top 125 who are in danger of losing fully exempt status for 2011 are Jonathan Byrd (No. 130), Rocco Mediate (No. 188) and John Daly (No. 194).

Mell’s picks: Winner – Brian Gay. Contender – Chad Campbell. Darkhorse – Woody Austin.

  • Course: Annandale Golf Club, Madison, Miss. Par 72, 7,199 yards.
  • Purse: $3.6 million (winner’s share, $648,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Sunday, Golf Channel, 8-10 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Event rained out, unplayable course conditions.


Ensure Classic at Rock Barn

Jay Haas is back to defend his title in a bid to win for the first time this season.

Haas, 56, has won 14 Champions Tour titles but none since the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship almost a year ago.

Bunker shot: A hand full of players may have trouble playing cross eyed this weekend. There are four former Ryder Cup captains likely to be playing with one eye on the Ensure Classic and another on the Ryder Cup matches at Celtic Manor. Tom Kite, Hal Sutton, Mark James and Bernhard Langer all served as captains. Nearly a quarter of the Ensure Classic field played in a Ryder Cup.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jay Haas. Contender – Bernhard Langer. Darkhorse – Hal Sutton.

  • Course: Rock Barn Golf & Spa, Conover, N.C. Par 72, 7,046 yards.
  • Purse: $1.75 million (winner’s share, $262,500).
  • TV times: Friday-Sunday, Golf Channel, 2-4 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Jay Haas closed with a 65 to defeat Russ Cochran and Andy Beach by two shots.


Soboba Golf Classic

With just five events remaining, the pressure builds.

Every player among the top 30 on the Nationwide Tour money list is teeing it up this week.

At season’s end, the top 25 earn promotions to the PGA Tour.

Bunker shots: Life changing leaps will occur in golf’s best developmental league over the next five weeks. Nate Smith took a large one Sunday winning the WNB Golf Classic. With his victory, he leaped from 78th on the money list to 25th. That makes him the Nationwide Tour Bubble Boy this week.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jamie Lovemark. Contender – Kevin Chappell. Darkhorse – J.J. Killeen.

  • Course: Country Club at Soboba Springs, San Jacinto, Calif. Par 71, 7101 yards.
  • Purse: $1 million (winner’s share, $180,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 4-6 p.m.
  • Last year: Jerod Turner defeated Derek Lamely by two shots.
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.”