Woods says he's healthy, body language speaks differently

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2012, 6:30 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Tiger Woods never reveals much about himself publicly with the spoken word, but his body almost never stops speaking to us.

When it comes to body language, he is among the most eloquent players on Tour.

Woods isn’t like world No. 1 Luke Donald. You wouldn’t know when Donald hits a bad shot looking at that marvelous pose of his after the ball leaves his club. It is often difficult to tell if he just striped it down the middle or pulled it into the woods when he’s lingering in that most elegant follow through. Donald’s body doesn’t betray his disappointments on the course the way Woods does.

Woods has practically invented his own sign language.

We know what he’s thinking, or at least we think we do, after he strikes a bad shot, even if we’re not within ear shot. He’ll thump the ground with his club, he’ll point left, or right, with palpable disgust. He’ll stick his hands on his hips and twist a dozen muscles in his face into angry knots. He’s a manifesto of unwritten words.

When Woods is in command, we know that, too. Woods was stalking his ball like the days of old across PGA National in that sizzling Sunday finish at the Honda Classic earlier this month. His body language told us he was reveling in the return of his powers shooting that 62.

And that brings us to Wednesday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where Woods told us he’s feeling good in the middle of this most arduous week, but his body told us something else. His body told us he’s pretty much day-to-day on the golf course, more so than most other tour pros.

At the sixth tee in Wednesday’s pro-am, Woods stopped abruptly in the middle of his downswing.

And his fans there got a tiny scare.

“I guess one of the so-called professional photographers took a picture right in the middle of my downswing,” Woods said. “I stopped it, and then felt a pretty good twinge in my back. Walked it off, and then tried to hit one down there, hit it in the fairway, but didn't feel very good.”

Woods, 10 days removed from withdrawing in the final round at Doral with a strained left Achilles tendon, limped off the sixth tee at Bay Hill.

“After a couple of holes, it loosened up, and I'm good to go now,” Woods said.

For Woods, for the folks who want to see him renew his major championship prowess, this has to be the maddening X-factor, this uncertainty over how his body will hold up the rest of his career. We’ve seen him limp off a golf course three times in two years now, twice at The Players Championship.

Woods was asked after the pro-am if he’s concerned the Achilles could strain without warning.

“It could, but hopefully it won’t,” he said.

His body isn’t just speaking to us. It’s speaking to him, and he’s listening a lot more intently than he ever did. That’s why he withdrew from Doral with seven holes to go.

“It’s one of those things where I just continue training, continue preparing, and just kind of monitor things a little bit more than I used to,” Woods said. “Because I used to be able to just kind of play through it. But then again, that also set me back, and one of the reasons I had surgeries is that I would ignore those, and just kind of play through it. I had success, but the problem is, it was also detriment at the same time physically.”

After Wednesday’s pro-am, Woods said he’s ready to finish off a sturdy test this week that is even more rigorous than we realized. He said he played a practice round at Augusta National on Sunday. With two rounds of the Tavistock Cup, with the Arnold Palmer Invitational’s pro-am and four competitive rounds, that means Woods could play eight consecutive days.

With four knee surgeries behind him, with the Achilles’ issue, it will be a telling week.

“I feel great, and that's the nice thing about getting treatment for three days, just getting off of it and just working on it two or three times a day,” Woods said.

How is Woods feeling going into a bid to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the seventh time in his career?

“Good to go,” Woods said.

His body will tell us more this week. If Woods holds up, and his play keeps elevating, look out in two weeks at the Masters. His swing’s getting so much sharper. If his putting fully kicks in, a fifth Masters title moves within reach.

Palmer will be watching Woods this week for signs he’s ready for the Masters.

“I haven’t been close to Tiger, other than reading the papers,” Palmer said. “I have not talked to him personally in some time, and I'm watching him swing, and I'm watching him play. I see some moments of the old-fashioned Tiger that is very good.

“I see some swing changes from time to time that he is employing, and I question that. But I'm like everyone else in this room, or anywhere that's watching him play. We look for things that are different, and I see some difference in his swing.

“But again, I can't tell you just what those things are, or what he's thinking about how he's going to continue to play. I think he's strong enough, and he's smart enough, and he's got all of the equipment to do the things that he always did do. I think it's just a matter of getting it in the proper order to make him play the kind of golf that he played in the past 20 years.

“So, if were making a prediction, I would say, look out, because one of these days, he's going to come back and play pretty good golf.”

Like the rest of us, Palmer will learn more from what Tiger’s body reveals than what his words reveal.

Watch highlights and behind-the-scene action from the Arnold Palmer Invitational pro-am Wednesday at 5 and 9PM ET.

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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.


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.”