Inkster's players see the light

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2017, 1:40 am

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – The Miley Cyrus hit got the fun going early.

Standing on the first tee at day’s start, U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster put her hands on her head and swayed her hips to the sweet rhythms of the Cyrus song wafting from the speakers across Des Moines Golf and Country Club.

Party in the USA . . .

The lyrics seemed to echo through Saturday’s morning foursomes and afternoon fourballs as the United States continued to build on its commanding lead in this biennial international team event.

While Inkster refuses to take anything for granted, or acknowledge victory is some foregone conclusion, her team looks poised to roll to its most lopsided victory in the history of the Solheim Cup.

The United States leads Europe 10 ½ to 5 ½ going into Sunday singles.

The Americans overcame a 10-6 deficit going to Sunday singles to win in Germany two years ago, but Europe will have to top that historic comeback. No Solheim Cup team has ever come from five points behind to win these matches.

“We played amazing,” Inkster said. “But, as you know, closing it out is the toughest thing to do. We need one more great day of golf.”

The Americans need only claim 3 ½ of the 12 available points in singles to retain the cup and four to win it outright.

“I know Annika's team will not quit,” Inkster said. “So we'll be ready for the task.”

Inkster’s dance at the first tee Saturday wasn’t her first this week. She seems to have taken possession of that opening tee box, playfully exhorting the crowd and joking with her players. She appears to be sending an unspoken message to every player she is sending out.

“We keep it loose,” Inkster said. “We keep it light. That's just what I'm trying to project.”


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She’s doing a fabulous job of it.

“I think this year's different,” said Brittany Lang, who teamed with Brittany Lincicome to shoot 12 under in a 2-up fourball victory. “I think we're focusing on a lot of fun.

“Juli has just wanted us to be a little bit more relaxed, and she said something really cool. She said, `I don't need you to play any better than you do all year in tournaments.’ The Solheim Cup is not usually about fun. It’s about keeping the cup and winning. But since we've started to have fun, we've played some really good golf.”

The Americans crammed a lot of fun into this Saturday as they claimed five of the eight points available on the day, three of the four available in fourballs.

Kerr holed out for eagle from a greenside bunker at the 15th and flung her club in the air. Kerr teamed with Lexi Thompson to shoot 13 under over 16 holes in a 4-and-2 fourballs victory against Georgia Hall and Catriona Matthew.

“We faced a difficult team,” Kerr said. “I told Lexi, we might have to shoot 59 to beat these guys, and we almost made that.”

Kerr and Thompson also won their morning foursomes match. The victories moved Kerr past Inkster for most wins (16) and most points (20) by an American in Solheim Cup history.

Lincicome started her fourballs match with six consecutive birdies, and then Lang holed out from 86 yards in some nasty rough for eagle at the seventh. They combined for a best-ball 61 on the par-73 layout in a tough 2-up victory against Mel Reid and Carlota Ciganda.

“Seemed like the hole was the size of Texas,” Lincicome said.

Lincicome said the six straight birdies is probably her personal record.

Lincicome said she and her husband have a running joke "that if I make three birdies in a row, he has to send me a picture with his shirt off. ... I’m not sure what six gets us."

Lincicome laughed.

“Is my face red?” she said.

Austin Ernst chipped in for birdie at the 15th in fourballs, helping to propel her and Paula Creamer to a 2-and-1 victory against Karine Icher and Madelene Sagstrom. They also won their foursomes match in the morning, improving Creamer to 16-9-5 in her Solheim Cup career, and pushing her past Inkster as the winningest foursomes player in American Solheim history. Creamer is now 7-4-3 in foursomes, with the 8½ points, a point better than Inkster.

“All those Twitter people out there who said I shouldn’t have picked Paula, shame on you,” Inkster said.

Inkster may be holding off on any celebrations, but she will be looking to keep the fun going Sunday.

“I think everybody puts a lot of emphasis on wins and losses,” Inkster said. “These girls have worked really hard two years to make the Solheim Cup team. And, yeah, it's great to win, and, yeah, it would be great to win. But it's not about that.”

Inkster said some of her best memories were from losses, too, from the camaraderie and friendships and the team building.

“They want to be a team,” Inkster said. “But sometimes you have to learn how to be a team. I think they’re learning how to be a team.”

That may be Inkster’s greatest gift to her players as they seek to link her with Judy Rankin as the only Americans to be the winning captains in back-to-back Solheim Cups.

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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.

Amen.

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.”