Europeans have cause for concern despite minor deficit

By Randall MellAugust 21, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 Solheim CupSUGAR GROVE, Ill. ' Never has a one-point lead seemed so insurmountable.
Yes, thats hyperbole, way over the top, but Europe s Alison Nicholas had to be uneasy as she rode her captains cart off the course in near darkness Friday after the first day of the Solheim Cup.
The heavily-favored Americans lead seems narrow at 4 to 3 , but sometimes scoreboards deceive, or at least hide hard truths.
While it appears the underdog Euros should be encouraged keeping it close, there are reasons for Nicholas to be concerned.
Gwladys Nocera and Becky Brewerton
Gwladys Nocera and Becky Brewerton won their afternoon foursomes match Friday. (Getty Images)
The history of these matches tell her that Europe better have a giant Saturday and build as large a lead as possible going into Sunday singles to have a chance to win.
Europe (3-7) has never won a Solheim Cup without leading going into singles.
The American depth has proven decisive in so many of these one-on-one Sunday finishes.
The United States is 16-8 in singles in the last two Solheim Cups.
The home-field advantage always weighs heaviest come Sundays in these team matches. Its never greater than during singles, the loneliest day in golf for away teams.
The Americans are 5-0 at home in the Solheim Cup.
What has to trouble Nicholas is that her big guns are shooting blanks.
Suzann Pettersen, the highest ranked player on the European squad, was sent out first Friday in the morning session and first again in the afternoon session and didnt bring home a point.
It isnt as if Nicholas sent her out with stiffs in the morning fourballs and afternoon foursomes. Pettersen teamed both sessions with Sophie Gustafson, a four-time LPGA winner and 13-time Ladies European Tour winner. They were defeated, 1 up, by Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr in fourballs and routed, 4 and 2, by Natalie Gulbis and Christina Kim in foursomes.
Given Pettersens reputation and Solheim Cup record, that borders on demoralizing.
Pettersen entered this event 8-1-3 in foursomes and fourballs.
Nicholas couldnt have been encouraged by what happened to Laura Davies in the morning and to the Scottish foursomes team of Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie in the afternoon.
Davies, whose 23 points ranks second only to Annika Sorenstam in Solheim Cup history, is in the twilight of her career, but shes still a formidable presence in the team room and an inspiration to fellow Europeans. Davies teammates couldnt have been inspired looking up at the scoreboard and seeing the Americans running up the score on her. Brittany Lincicome and Brittany Lang scored the first point in the matches beating Davies and Becky Brewerton, 5 and 4.
The team of Moodie and Matthew looked like the Euros most formidable team in the afternoon. Moodie was 6-1-1 in Solheim Cups. She was undefeated in two previous pairings with Matthew. They also teamed to finish second at the World Cup in 06.
The Scottish duo never led in its match against Paula Creamer and Juli Inkster. They were defeated, 2 and 1.
Moodies considered the feistiest European, the teams bulldog, but she was reduced to Chihuahua status with a stone-cold putter.
Yes, anything can happen this weekend, its the beauty of sport. Weve seen it in golfs biggest events all year long. We saw it last weekend with Y.E. Yang taking down Tiger Woods in the final round of the PGA Championship. When Matthew holed the last putt in the morning fourballs, a 15-foot birdie to halve a match with Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie, it lifted the spirits of the Europeans. At days end, it was the difference between the Euros trailing by a point instead of two points.
Absolutely massive, Nicholas said. That was just sensational.
American captain Beth Daniel is sticking to a plan to resting every one of her players at least one match to keep them fresh for Sunday singles on this long course. Thats something to concern the Euros, too. Daniel is confident enough in her teams depth that she sat down Kerr Friday afternoon and will sit down Creamer Saturday morning.
Still, Inkster has seen her share of golf rodeos, and she isnt discounting this European squad.
One point is nothing, Inkster said. Its very close. A lot of these matches could have gone one way or the other. The Europeans have a very long [hitting] team and this golf course really plays to their advantage.
Little known Euros Becky Brewerton, Tania Elosegui and Gwladys Nocera all earned points Friday. There's hope in the unheralded Euros producing with the big names sleeping. If Pettersen catches fire Sunday, and the little known Euros keep becoming better known, Nicholas may get her big Saturday. Anna Nordqvist and Maria Hjorth were 7 under through 15 holes in their foursomes victory against Kristy McPherson and Lincicome. They provide hope, too.
Obviously, a one-point lead isnt insurmountable, not in a year like this in golf, but history tells us it will take a special effort Saturday to set up a European upset.
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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 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.”