Par 5 Moving Up in the World

By Randall MellFebruary 1, 2011, 8:16 pm
Setting the week’s agenda with five questions for the world of professional golf at large . . .

Is Martin Kaymer ready to ascend to the top of the world rankings?

Talk about precision German engineering.

Kaymer must have looked like a birdie machine to world No. 1 Lee Westwood when Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship two weeks ago in the last start for both players.

Martin Kaymer
Martin Kaymer won this year's Abu Dhabi Championship. (Getty Images)
After finishing 26 shots ahead of Westwood and leaping over Tiger Woods to No. 2 in the world rankings, Kaymer is in position to make the biggest world-ranking move of his career. While he can only move up one spot at the European Tour’s Commercialbank Qatar Masters this week, it’s one giant spot. Kaymer can become the 14th player to gain the No. 1 spot since the Official World Golf Ranking was created in 1986.

Kaymer will end Westwood’s 14-week run at the top if he wins the Qatar Masters and Westwood finishes lower than second. Kaymer can also ascend to No. 1 if he finishes second and Westwood finishes outside the top 22.

The fact that Westwood and Kaymer are both in the field marks the first time Europeans ranked Nos. 1-2 in the world have met in a tournament since No. 1 Nick Faldo squared off against No. 2 Bernhard Langer at the Irish Open in 1993.

Kaymer’s seeking his sixth European Tour victory in 13 months, Westwood his first in that same span, but it won’t be as easy for Kaymer as it was at Abu Dhabi, where he’s so comfortable. Westwood favors this week’s Doha Golf Club layout

“It’s a golf course that suits me down to the ground,” Westwood says in a story on the European Tour’s website. “When you get rough like you do in Doha, it is a good driver's golf course, so I would expect it to suit me. It's almost like a major championship setup with firm greens and thick rough. With its firm greens, you can get close to the flags – but you need to be mentally strong, as it is a thinking man's golf course.”

The Qatar field also features world No. 6 Paul Casey, No. 7 Steve Stricker, No. 12 Ian Poulter, No. 15 Retief Goosen, No. 16 Robert Karlsson and No. 19 Louis Oosthuizen. John Daly and Sergio Garcia are also scheduled to play.
Is Phil Mickelson about to see Tiger Woods in his rear-view mirror?

There’s an old saying, something like, “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.”

In that regard, Phil Mickelson’s view hasn’t been so good for awhile, as it relates to the world rankings.

Mickelson, like all his colleagues, has been looking at Woods’ backside for a long, long time, but nobody’s been closer than Mickelson. Last year, Mickelson spent 29 weeks at No. 2 directly behind Woods. The year before that, he spent 39 weeks at No. 2 behind Woods. With Mickelson’s strong finish at Sunday’s Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday, he jumped two spots to No. 4, back into a familiar spot directly behind Woods, of course.

It’s been nearly 14 years since Mickelson’s ranked ahead of Woods.

Going to the Masters in 1997, Mickelson ranked No. 9 in the world and Woods No. 13. That’s the last time Mickelson’s ranked ahead of Woods. A week later, with his ’97 Masters’ victory, Woods climbed over Mickelson to No. 3.

This is the week Mickelson could finally change his world ranking scenery.

With a strong finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Mickelson can move his ranking ahead of Woods for the first time since April 6, 1997. Mickelson can move ahead of Woods with a first-, second- or third-place finish, depending on what happens at Qatar.
Can Bubba, Lefty and Jhonny re-enact their Torrey Pines drama?

Bubba Watson, Mickelson and Jhonattan Vegas are all in the field at the Waste Management Phoenix Open after finishing 1-2-T3, respectively, last weekend.

Mickelson’s won twice at TPC Scottsdale and finished second another time. Watson has one top-10 finish there in four tries, but he’s a birdie machine who ought to do well with all the confidence percolating from last week’s victory at the Farmers Insurance Open. Watson handled his cauldron of emotions beautifully coming down the stretch, making you think this guy’s seriously moved to another level. Vegas won a birdie blitz in the desert at the Bob Hope Classic two weeks ago and showed he’s got the game for nearly any kind of track with his finish at Torrey Pines. All three of these guys look like they could have huge springs if not huge years.
Who are the animals around TPC Scottsdale’s 16th hole going to devour?

Ian Poulter got a full dose of the lunacy that reigns around the wildest hole in golf last year.

After carving his tee shot to 7 feet in the final round, he was lustily cheered. After missing the birdie putt, he was just as lustily jeered and booed.

Walking off the green, Poulter scratched his nose with his middle finger fully extended. Poulter tweeted that he was merely getting something off his face, but a message was delivered. The animals can be amusing and insulting and quite creative in managing both at the same time. Poulter, by the way, isn’t in this week’s field. He’s almost as far away as you can get at the Qatar Masters.
Does the Australian Women’s Open mark the start of the women’s season?

The LPGA season doesn’t start for another two weeks at the Honda LPGA Thailand, but there are a lot of LPGA pros getting their years started at the Australian Women’s Open this week.

Yani Tseng, the 2010 LPGA Rolex Player of the Year, is teeing it up as defending champ at Commonwealth Golf Club outside Melbourne. So is Rolex No. 1 Jiyai Shin. Four-time Australian Women’s Open champ Karrie Webb is in a marquee pairing with Stacy Lewis and 15-year-old American phenom Alexis Thompson. Laura Davies, a two-time winner of this event, is also in the field along with American Christina Kim and major championship winners Karen Stupples and Eun Hee Ji.
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 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.”