New decision leaves many LPGA pros unsatisfied

By Randall MellApril 25, 2017, 11:36 pm

IRVING, Texas – The new Rules of Golf decision limiting video evidence left a lot of LPGA pros scratching their heads.

They walked away from Tuesday’s news unsure how the USGA and R&A’s new standards will be applied to rules infractions discovered via video and whether this new decision would have helped Lexi Thompson avoid the penalties that derailed her bid to win the ANA Inspiration three weeks ago.

“There’s more gray area than clear definition,” two-time major champion Stacy Lewis said. “It didn’t really clarify anything.”

While some LPGA pros are already referring to Decision 34-3/10 as “The Lexi Rule,” USGA and R&A leaders insist that’s not the case, that the new decision was already a work in progress. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said the rule simply got “fast tracked” after the Thompson controversy.

Still, LPGA pros were immediately trying to figure out how the new decision would have been applied to Thompson at the ANA if it were in effect at the time.

“I don’t think it changes Lexi’s ruling at all,” Lewis said. “It probably changes Anna’s.”

That would be Anna Nordqvist.

Thompson was penalized four shots in the final round of the ANA Inspiration after a TV viewer emailed in to report a possible infraction. She was penalized two shots for incorrectly marking her ball on the 17th green on Saturday and two more for signing an incorrect scorecard after that round.

Nordqvist lost the U.S. Women’s Open in a playoff last summer after she was penalized two shots for grazing a few grains of sand taking back a 5-iron in a fairway bunker during a playoff. The violation was spotted in high definition video replay. She lost the playoff to Brittany Lang.

Basically, Decision 34-3/10 limits 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.

Nordqvist clearly fits the standard for relief created in the new decision, and expressed her satisfaction with the new rule as it relates to her.

"I am happy with the USGA and R&A Rules Decision regarding infractions that cannot be reasonably seen with the naked eye," she wrote in a message posted to Instagram. "After my experience last year at the U.S. Women's Open at Cordevalle, I know firsthand the impact that the advancements in technology can have on potential rulings. As I said following the round I made a mistake, and I take full responsibility for it. I am happy that going forward this will no longer be an issue. I will be making no further comments on this new decision. Thank you for your understanding."

As for Thompson? In order for her to have avoided the penalties under this new decision, the championship rules committee would have had to determine that her mismarking wasn’t visible to the naked eye, or that she showed “reasonable judgment” moving her ball back to its mark.

While Lewis said she believes Thompson should have won the championship, she wasn’t completely certain how “reasonable judgment” would be applied.

“I just think it was so clear,” Lewis said. “Yeah, you had to zoom in on it. It’s pretty clear what happened.”

Lewis wasn’t saying she believed Thompson intentionally returned the ball to a wrong spot, only that it was clear she didn’t return it correctly.

“I don’t think she purposely tried to move her ball,” Lewis said. “I’ve never seen her do that.”

Lewis has more of an issue with the two-shot penalty Thompson got for signing an incorrect scorecard, because Thompson didn’t know her scorecard was incorrect. Lewis also believes the USGA should implement a rule that would “close out” a round and make scores official once the following round begins. If that had been the case, Thompson wouldn’t have been penalized at all.

“I still think she won that golf tournament by four shots,” Lewis said. “I hope she thinks that too.”

Catriona Matthew also wasn’t sure a rules committee would grant Thompson relief, with a TV viewer apparently seeing the infraction with the naked eye and with “reasonable judgment” not a certainty in how a committee viewed her marking of the ball.

“She clearly moved the ball,” Matthew said. “Some people are then going to argue, 'How much should you move it for it to be a penalty?’”

Whan said the LPGA rules staff hasn’t gone back to review how Thompson’s infractions could have been treated under the new standards. He’s respectful of the champion, So Yeon Ryu.

“Could we have had a different outcome, I don’t know if it does any good to assess that now,” Whan said.

Like Lewis, Matthew sees the new decision creating a gray area that’s going to land in the laps of local rules committees.

“I think it muddies the water even more,” Matthew said. “That puts the rules officials in a much harder position. What do they call a judgment call?”

If Matthew had her way, viewers wouldn’t be able to call in violations, which would have spared Thompson the penalties.

“I don’t think you should be able to phone in after the fact,” Matthew said.

With the release of Decision 34-3/10, the USGA and R&A announced they are immediately beginning a “comprehensive review of broader video issues” within televised competition, including viewer call-ins.

That can’t happen fast enough for most LPGA pros.

“I think everyone understood the two-shot penalty [for the mark], but not the scorecard,” reigning U.S. Women’s Open champ Brittany Lang told Golf Channel’s Tom Abbott in a Golf Central interview. “My opinion is they have to do away with call-ins.”

How strong is Lang’s opinion on that?

“I think if you are going to call in, they ought to put your picture and your information on TV, just to show who is doing this and why you did it,” Lang said

More than one LPGA pro wished the USGA and R&A would have gone further on Tuesday, or more strongly committed to going further.

“I don’t feel like this is going to help,” Angela Stanford said. “It looks like the USGA and R&A are making an effort, but I wish they would just address the big question everyone is asking: Why allow people to call in at all? Or, if you are going to let people call in, why can’t you stop it at the end of the day? In my opinion, it means you must want that to continue.”

Count Mo Martin among those who want viewer call-ins to end.

“In my opinion, nobody has been caught flagrantly cheating,” Martin said. “I don’t think Lexi or Anna got an advantage. This is about tiny grains of sands and a ball maybe being moved a quarter-inch.

“The bigger issues are do we allow call-ins? And I hope that’s going to be addressed.”

Whan is optimistic those solutions are coming with the LPGA, PGA Tour, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America joining the USGA and R&A in a comprehensive review of the broader video issues.

“I love the fact they are building a team to do that, and they are taking input from all different tours.” Whan said. “I feel like whatever decision comes out of that, it will be the right one. I’m enthusiastic they moved so quickly on what they did, and I really like the process for going forward.”

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry