Paralysis of Analysis

By Randall MellJuly 13, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' Padraig Harrington can make your head spin these days.
 
Gauging the mercurial Irishmans readiness to make history this week is confusing business.
 
Even with his victory at the Irish PGA this past weekend, bookmakers dont particularly favor his chances of winning three consecutive British Open Championships.
 
Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington is going for a third straight Open Championship. (Getty Images)
Though Harrington has won three of the last eight major championships, Ladbrokes makes him only a 25-to-1 shot to win at Turnberry this week.
 
Even after breaking his streak of five consecutive missed cuts with a victory at the Irish PGA last weekend, hes a mess.
 
Im clutching at straws a bit at the moment, trying to find a little key to keep myself occupied, he told assembled media after winning the Irish PGA a sixth time. I wouldnt like to have to play next weeks tournament thinking of such things.
 
Nobodys quite sure what to expect from Harrington as he seeks to become the first player since Peter Thomson (1954-56) to win three consecutive Open titles, and thats not entirely due to the erratic nature of his game. Its the nature of this thinking mans brain and whether hes experiencing paralysis of analysis.
 
Still, Harrington sounds as resolute about his approach to golf as he is bewildered by the state of his swing.
 
After winning back-to-back majors last year, he set out to make his swing even better, though nobodys sure exactly what he was trying to do.
 
NBC analyst Johnny Miller watched him at the U.S. Open and determined that Harrington had changed his ball flight, going away from the fade that helped him win back-to-back majors and fashioning a draw.
 
Not so, Harrington said.
 
I tried to play with a draw when I won the Open in 2007, and the last 18 months, Ive played with a fade, Harrington said. Anytime you saw those hooks, I was aiming left to play a fade. I cant draw the ball to save my life. If I could draw the ball, Id be OK. Thats the reason I stopped trying to draw it, Id make a good swing, trying to draw it, and Id hit it dead-straight right, push it. The last shot I could ever try and play ' this is why Ive been working on my swing ' is to try and draw it. So Ive been trying to fade it. Ive obviously been doing a poor job of it.
 
A lot of fuss has been made over Harringtons obsessive tinkering with his swing, but he says folks shouldnt worry. He says its all part of a process he has been through his entire career, that, ultimately, he has always come out better in the end. He just doesnt know where the end is this time, even with the Irish PGA victory.
 
Im a constant thinker, Harrington said. Ive been doing this since 15 years of age. I dont think I would be comfortable unless I was changing something. It will be interesting if I ever do get to the end of the road, and obviously thats a never-ending road, so I wont get there.
 
Ive always been the type of person where results arent everything in the short term. I know if I keep doing the right things, its worked before, it will work again.
 
Even Harringtons sports psychologist, Bob Rotella, has cautioned him about thinking too much. Rotella sat him down at The Players Championship in May for a stern chat.
 
I wasnt yelling or screaming, but every once in a blue moon, Padraig gets a real strong urge to start working on his swing and gets lost and messed up trying to improve it, Rotella said. Ninety-five percent of the time, he thinks about nothing over a shot. He has gone a year-and-a-half without having a swing thought, just seeing the target, reacting and accepting the shot.
 
Thats how Harrington played a year ago, when he was at the height of his powers.
 
When Harrington hit a 5-wood from 272 yards to 4 feet to set up an eagle and clinch the British Open at the 71st hole at Royal Birkdale last summer, he looked like he had reached another level. He looked like a legitimate threat to Tiger Woods in majors, once Woods returned from reconstructive knee surgery. The year before, Harrington won the British Open at Carnoustie, and he would follow his Royal Birkdale triumph by winning the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
 
Harrington currently holds two major championship titles, but its an unsteady grip.
 
After he missed the cut at the U.S. Open last month at Bethpage Black, he sounded lost.
 
I dont have any shape at the moment, Harrington said there. That would be an issue. If I did hit it with a big draw, that would be fine. If I hit it with a big hook, that would be fine. I actually have no shape. Its the old problem, Im aiming at the middle of the fairway, and Ive only got half the fairway to aim at. I hit it left, or hit it right.
 
'There is temptation to go back to what I played with my first couple years as pro, a draw. Even though I did win the Open with it (in 07), I gave up on it the last 18 months. When you are not playing well, its not easy to hit with no shape. If youre not playing well, youre better off putting more shape into it, then youve got a bigger target to aim at. Thats something for me to look into. Im not very confident because Ive only got half the fairway to aim at because Im not sure what shape is going to come out, a fade or a draw.
 
While Ben Hogan was determined to dig golfs secret out of the dirt, Harringtons determined to dig it out of the mind.
 
Harrington spelled it out for the Belfast Telegraph:
 
Its complicated to explain whats going on. I'm trying to understand the whole process [of playing golf] so that I can control it. I wouldn't be able to accept performing without knowing why. I don't think I'd enjoy winning if I didn't know why I was winning. I think the ultimate satisfaction of winning is understanding how I got there. While I admire sporting achievement, I pay very little respect to somebody who wins without knowing why.
 
There are loads of people like me. If I was a tech nerd, I'd be the guy who pulls apart his computer to see how it works. Of course, I've no interest in doing that to my computer. With my golf game, however, I want to pull it apart and see what everything does.
 
Howard Hughes, as a 14-year-old kid, he got his dad to buy him a sports car so he could pull it apart. He spent a month breaking it down bit-by-bit and then putting it all back together. Well, that's me with my golf game.
 
Golf will see this week how much of his game hes been able to put back together.
 
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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.”