Solheim Cup Polishing

By Randall MellAugust 3, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 Solheim CupThe grumbling is growing louder.
U.S. Solheim Cup captain Beth Daniel acknowledges that she hears it, and it disturbs her.
The Solheim Cup is becoming a strictly Off Broadway affair. The United States vs. Europe feels like a consolation bracket with so many of the worlds best international players excluded and Swedens Annika Sorenstam now in retirement. The world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa of Mexico wont be there and neither will the most dominant force in womens golf ' the Asians. Not to mention the resurgent Aussies, who have three of the top 20 players in the world rankings, will be noticeably absent.
These sentiments are sure to lead to more media grousing that the Solheim Cup needs a makeover to broaden its appeal and create a grander stage to showcase the best in womens golf as the Aug. 21-23 international team competition nears at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
Such grumbling gets the dander up on the ultra competitive Daniel.
It does a little bit, she said Sunday in a telephone interview from Lancashire, England, where the Solheim Cup teams were presented. This is the competition Karsten Solheim wanted because of his Norwegian roots, a competition like the Ryder Cup.
These things go in cycles. Europe has some good, young players who will be good players, but right now, on paper, our team looks very, very strong. In two years, that could change.
Daniel didnt choose her two captains picks Sunday ' Michelle Wie and Juli Inkster ' because they create buzz, but the picks do help escalate interest.
The event needs good storylines to fuel interest beyond its traditional golf audience the way the Ryder Cup does.
Like her or not, Wie, 19, remains a lightning rod in womens golf, a spectacle who amps up TV ratings and gate receipts.
The Hall of Famer Inkster, 49, will be a focal point as the oldest player in the history of the competition who is likely playing her final Solheim Cup.
It also helps the event that Scotlands Catriona Matthew won the Ricoh Womens British Open because Europe looked downright sickly with its top three point-winners off the Ladies European Tour Solheim Cup standings missing the cut with dreadful showings at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
Frances Gwladys Nocera, Spains Tania Elosegui and Italys Diana Luna were cumulatively 55-over par after two rounds of the seasons last major.
Nocera couldnt break 90 in the first round. Elosegui and Luna both failed to break 80 in the second round.
These dismal failures threaten the credibility of the competition.
So does the fact that the Americans have dominated it.
The United States leads the Solheim Cup series 7-3 and has never lost on American soil (5-0). The Americans won in a 16-12 rout in Sweden the last time the event was staged.
Make no mistake, we are up against it, said Englands Laura Davies, who will make her 11th appearance as the only player to compete in every Solheim Cup.
Matthews victory helps build some much needed momentum for the team competition.
As overmatched as the Europeans look on paper, at least they have two LPGA titles this summer, both major championships with Swedens Anna Nordqvist winning the McDonalds LPGA Championship in June.
Brittany Lincicomes victory at the Kraft Nabisco is the only major championship title won by an American in the last nine played.
Europeans have won seven of the last 21 majors, equaling the number won by Asians. The Americans have won four in that span.
Americans have gone the last three months without a victory, nine LPGA events without a title. Cristie Kerr was the last American to win when she hoisted the trophy at the Michelob Ultra Open on May 10. If a non-American wins the next LPGA event, it will equal the longest American drought in any season in the 59-year history of the LPGA. With Sorenstam at the height of her powers, international players won the last 10 events of the 2002 LPGA season.
The Asians are on a roll having won seven of the last nine LPGA events.
Daniels right about these international team events working in cycles, but she probably doesnt want to hear that what the Solheim Cup needs is an upset.
When Europe turned the Ryder Cup around, it jolted new interest in the event.
The Americans had won 13 consecutive Ryder Cups when a new breed of European players sparked a 16 to 11 upset in 1985. Spains Seve Ballesteros, Englands Nick Faldo and Germanys Bernhard Langer helped change the nature of the competition to the point where the Americans were actually the underdog when they upset Europe at Valhalla last year. The competition was expanded from Great Britain/Ireland to all of Europe in 1979.
While there is sure to be more grousing that the Solheim Cup needs to be expanded to include more of the worlds golf powers, there will be pushback, too.
To be honest, if they change it that way, it will be the end of the Solheim Cup, Davies said. Its Europe against America. Thats what the Solheim Cup is. If you try to bring internationals under one flag, it wont work. Europes a continent. If you make it international, a mish-mash of continents, there is no flag to fly. You couldnt come together as a team, and it wouldnt make sense. People wouldnt get it.
It has been suggested that new teams be given a chance, that an Asian team be brought into the mix, or an international team outside Europe and the United States.
Those suggestions wont end until the U.S. vs. Europe becomes so compelling nobody cares whos left out.
In that regard, as Davies says, Europes up against it with something to prove on American soil.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Ricoh Women's British Open
  • Getty Images

    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.”

    Getty Images

    PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

    The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

    PGA Tour:

    The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.


    We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.