Randall's Rant: Only one to blame at U.S. Girls'

By Randall MellJuly 31, 2017, 12:30 pm

There are no gimmes in golf, especially with major titles riding in championship match play.

Elizabeth Moon raked away a gimme.


Game over.

End of story.

This story should go no further than that.

Moon is young. She’s 17, and she made a very large mistake that cost her the semifinal at the U.S. Girls’ Junior last week.

Moon assumed her 6-inch putt was good after missing a 4-foot birdie chance to win the match, assumed that Erica Shepherd was going to concede the tap-in putt, and Moon almost immediately reached over to rake it away, before Shepherd could really gather herself and take in the larger picture in that jarring, head-spinning moment.

Shepherd is even younger than Moon. She’s 16. Her reaction in that blink of an eye, when her caddie asks her if she gave Moon the putt, is completely understandable in that highly competitive moment. Shepherd says she didn't give Moon the putt.

Shepherd’s reaction a few moments later, when she says she would have given her the putt, is understandable, too, with the gravity of it all settling on her.

This was raw, honest human reaction in real time with something intensely valued hanging in the balance.

Sportsmanship isn’t an issue here.

There was nothing unsportsmanlike in Shepherd’s reaction. There was no gamesmanship, no malicious opportunism in her reaction, no cunning attempt to take advantage.

It call comes back to the fact that there are no gimmes in championship golf.

You could argue that Shepherd could have immediately turned away, acted as if she gave Moon the putt, but there is a lie in that.

Players can’t take gimmes, no matter how short the putt. You stop, and you look for confirmation from your opponent before raking a putt away.

Because where do you draw the line? When are “gimmes” common sense, if ever? From 18 inches? From 2 feet? From 3 feet?

Jason Day goes at match play as mercilessly as anyone, ever. He is begrudging about concessions. He irritates opponents with his lack of generosity with short putts.

Is that unsportsmanlike? No, it’s a strategy that is inherent in the nature of match play.

Sportsmanship is a spirit of fairness within the rules.

Raking away putts without a concession veers outside the rules.

Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, says sportsmanship has its basis in the ancient Olympic ideal that you honor your opponent, because competition pushes humanity to higher levels of excellence. So, you honor your opponent as an ally in striving together for a greater good.

Sportsmanship is also about honoring the game.

Gimmes don’t honor the game, because there’s a slippery slope in how far some players could take that. A concession makes it clear cut.

This is no attack on the young Moon, not at all. She wasn’t being cunning or deceptive, or trying to get away with a gimme. She made a mistake in the heat of the moment, and then she showed great character in the way she handled her mistake. In fact, she didn’t blame Shepherd or the Rules of Golf. She was admirably and honorably accountable.

And what about the spirit of the game?

Shepherd’s critics say the spirit of the game wasn’t served with Moon’s loss. But would it have been served with a gimme? Again, with the slippery slope that leads to, with all the problems that players would create assuming putts are conceded? Really, aren’t you defending the field and the game itself when you require a concession be given?

For those comparing this to the Solheim Cup controversy that engulfed Suzann Pettersen two years ago, there are huge differences.

That was a two-woman fourball game.

American Alison Lee completely changed that dynamic when she said she thought she heard Europe conceding the putt. Lee completely shifted the heat on to Pettersen and Europe when she said that. The fact that Europe’s Charley Hull started walking away before Lee scooped up the putt added to the confusion. There was even an official’s option within the rules there that would have allowed Lee to replay the putt.

It’s a shame Moon lost the way she did, but there are no gimmes in championship golf.

End of story.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.