USGA needs to address video review after DJ debacle

By Randall MellJune 20, 2016, 4:26 am

OAKMONT, Pa. – Dustin Johnson won the U.S. Open Sunday in a stylistic tour de force.

He put on one of the great displays of driving in the history of this championship, blasting his way through Oakmont’s formidable defenses and maybe even more impressively through all the doubts and uncertainties that his past failures on major championship stages created.

Johnson won spectacularly, and it’s just a shame we had to watch his virtuoso performance through the fog of angst and confusion the USGA created in the middle of the round.

It’s frustrating we couldn’t fully appreciate just how masterful Johnson’s triumph was without the USGA clouding our view in a way that threatened to compromise the integrity of the competition.

That’s the shame of how the final round unfolded.

The USGA allowed the final seven holes to be played with the competitors, gallery and television audience uncertain the scoreboard was correct. Based on a video review, the rules committee decided to wait until after the round to rule on whether Johnson should be assessed a one-stroke penalty for causing his ball to move over a putt in violation of Rule 18-2. The putt in question came back on the fifth green.

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The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but this was a quintessential example of how the integrity of perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

The ancient game has a complicated problem in this age of video review and the ruling bodies need to think through a fix.

Before moving on with this point, let’s get this straight, Johnson’s triumph was not diminished by the near fiasco the USGA created. The fact that he was so undaunted through it all makes his performance all the more impressive. He deserves our highest praise.

The problem Sunday was video review and how it is used in golf to enforce the rules.

Video review helps other sports “get it right” in reviewing calls. Too often, video review makes golf feel like it’s “getting it wrong.” Never was that more the case than here at Oakmont.

After Johnson saw his ball move as he prepared to putt at the fifth green, he called in a referee.

Under the old Rule 18-2b, a player was automatically assessed a penalty if his ball moved after he addressed it. Under new Rule 18-2, the player is penalized one stroke only if facts show the player caused the ball to move.

Johnson noticed the movement after taking a couple practice swings to the side of the ball and soling his club. He noticed it move as he began to lift his putter behind the ball, but he did not believe he touched the ball or caused it to move. The referee he consulted found no cause to apply a penalty.

As Johnson played on, USGA managing director of rules and competition Jeff Hall and senior director of rules Thomas Pagel reviewed video of what happened.

“As a committee, when we viewed the tape, we looked at it and said `Given the timing of his actions, it was more likely than not that Dustin was the cause of the movement,” Pagel said.

The application of the new rule is complicated, but the short explanation is the committee doesn’t have to be 100 percent certain a player caused the ball to move. In fact, it merely needs “the weight of evidence” to indicate the player caused the ball to move.

The problem here isn’t really in the assessment of the penalty. It’s in the USGA going to Johnson at the 12th tee to discuss the issue but then leaving without a ruling.

“It was clear we needed a further conversation, and the 12th tee did not seem to be the right place for that,” Hall said.

So the USGA decided to wait for a more thorough review with Johnson after the round.

“We put him on notice that based on the action we saw, he could have caused the ball to move,” Hall said.

So Johnson played on knowing he could be assessed a one-shot penalty.

Pagel said the rules staff also then began informing other players on the course that they were “reviewing a situation” with Johnson “that could cause him a one-stroke penalty.” So as Johnson left the 12th tee, he wasn’t certain if he was 5 under or 4 under. He wasn’t certain if he was one shot ahead of Shane Lowry or tied for the lead. The rest of field wasn’t certain, either.

That matters immensely.

It matters in how Johnson plays strategically, in how those chasing him play. It matters in how aggressively or conservatively both he and his fellow competitors should play.

That’s where the integrity of the competition is impugned.

Imagine the Pittsburgh Steelers down the road from Oakmont driving for a late score not knowing if they need a touchdown or field goal to win because they’re not sure the scoreboard is right.

Imagine fans not knowing exactly what they’re cheering for.

“This isn’t right for anyone on the golf course,” Rory McIlroy tweeted. “If it was me, I wouldn’t hit another shot until this farce was rectified.”

Jordan Spieth was just as indignant.

“This is a joke,” he said.

After Johnson finished, the USGA did meet with him again and did decide to assess a one-stroke penalty. Johnson made sure it didn't matter building himself a cushion.

There’s no intent here to say the USGA rules staff wasn’t trying to do the most honorable thing.

“At the end of the day, it’s about getting it right,” Hall said.

But that’s the big problem for golf with video review.

If you wait too long to get it right, did you really get it right?

They don’t wait until the game’s over to review a call in the NFL or Major League Baseball or in the NBA. Golf’s different, but it’s not that different. The integrity of the game hangs in the balance when you wait until it’s too late to get a call right. Golf is too often too late when it comes to catching violations on video review.

It’s time to fix that so we can more fully appreciate the tour de force efforts of today’s best players.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry