Rule change could spare some from disqualification

By Randall MellApril 7, 2011, 6:12 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. – If a television viewer calls in a rules violation after a player has already signed his scorecard during this week’s Masters, Augusta National Golf Club’s rules committee now has the power to waive disqualification.

Given the new interpretation to the Rules of Golf announced Thursday, tournament committees around the world will have the ability to add the proper penalty to a player’s score after the card is signed.

U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis and Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson said their governing bodies, which oversee the Rules of Golf, have been working three months to change the interpretation. He said it is coincidence that the announcement came before the start of the Masters.

“It became more urgent for us the more and more disqualification penalties we were seeing, that were fact-based, and that the player simply couldn't have known,” Davis said. “That's what the urgency was.”

Davis said the Masters provided the USGA and R&A the chance to meet and finalize the rule change.

“After we had spent countless hours over the last few months working through these things, we finally came to resolution,” Davis said. “We felt that once we did that, whether it was this week or another week, it needed to happen immediately. Because this was really a problem that we didn't want to wait until the next rules cycle to change.”

Davis said advances in video technology led to reconsideration of the rules. He said high definition TV, super slow motion and extreme close-ups are capturing violations that were previously unnoticed. He said the growing disqualifications caused concern with more viewers reporting violations after scorecards have been signed.

“The Rules of Golf never contemplated what is happening,” Davis said.

While Davis said there’s no movement to disallow TV viewers from reporting violations, the new rule better addresses the phenomenon. Davis said there's limited circumstances where disqualification can be waived.

“There had to be facts arise after the scorecard had been returned, that the player either couldn't possibly have known about, or, in the committee's judgment, couldn't have reasonably known before he returned the scorecard,” Davis said. “That's the key here. We are dealing with fact-based issues. It's not issues dealing with not knowing the rules.”

Dawson likes the change.

“It's our duty as governing bodies to ensure that the rules remain fair and relevant, and that we are responsive to changing circumstances,” Dawson said.

Most recently, Padraig Harrington was disqualified from the Abu Dhabi Championship after he brushed and barely moved his golf ball as he was removing his ballmark on the seventh green in the second round. Because Harrington didn’t replace the ball, he should have been penalized two shots. He was DQ’d for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Camilo Villegas was disqualified from the Tournament of Champions when he swept away a divot as his ball was rolling back toward his feet following a chip shot at the 15th green in the second round. He should have added a two-shot penalty to his score. He also was DQ’d for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Both violations were called in by television viewers.

Davis used the Harrington and Villegas violations to explain the distinction between “facts a player could not have known” and ignorance of the rules.

Davis said Harrington’s disqualification could have been waived and a two-stroke penalty added to his scorecard. Harrington was unaware he moved his ball (the ball moved about two dimples). However, he said Villegas’ disqualification would have stood. Villegas did not know the rule he violated.

“Ignorance of the rules will not in this particular case get a player off disqualification, if he breaches a rule, doesn't include the penalty, and then returns a scorecard,” Davis said.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell
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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.