Arizona Artistry

By Rex HoggardFebruary 28, 2011, 6:38 am

2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayMARANA, Ariz. – Forgive Luke Donald if he appeared a tad flummoxed following his 3-and-2 victory over Martin Kaymer in Sunday’s final bout at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The Englishman hadn’t seen the 18th hole all week and had been pushed to Dove Mountain’s 17th hole just once, so the rocky road back to the Ritz clubhouse was a little unfamiliar.

Who would have thought that the Match Play winner, who must weather five days and six rounds, would play fewer holes (89) than the Bob Hope Classic champion (90)?

But the journey through the high Arizona desert was a Sunday stroll compared to the wilderness Donald has traversed since his last title on the PGA Tour.

The last time Donald hoisted Sunday gold, the economy was booming, Martin Kaymer was barely a blip on the European radar and Tiger Woods ruled the World Ranking with mathematical command. So if Donald seemed a bit overly relieved following his Draconian performance at Dove Mountain, it was for good reason.

“You always have doubts when you go five years without a win on the U.S. Tour . . . To come here and beat the top 63 players is very gratifying,” said Donald, whose last Tour victory was at the 2006 Honda Classic.

The way Donald performed at the year’s first World Golf Championship, he could have collected two Tour titles. For the week he birdied 32 of 89 holes, hit 74 percent of his greens in regulation, 66 percent of his fairways and one-putted a staggering 46 times. By any measure, a commanding performance.

But Donald’s greatest achievement, at least personally, was doing it against the game’s best – freshly minted world No. 1 Kaymer who completed his long-overdue ascension to the top of the World Ranking heap with his finals appearance.

“Everybody was sending me text messages saying they hope he plays Bubba (Watson) in the final, but I wanted him to play Kaymer and so did Luke,” said Pat Goss, the golf coach at Northwestern University and Donald’s swing mentor since he walked on campus in September 1997. “He wanted to play the best.”

Donald never trailed in six matches and opened a 3-up lead over the German through five blustery holes that featured a short stoppage of play on the fourth hole while officials waited for a hail storm to pass.

Not that Donald envisioned another early ending for the 18-hole final when he awoke Sunday morning to see an inch of newly fallen snow on the Dove Mountain track. For those taking early bets, Kaymer was a lock to win the WGC-Downhill Championship – no one tucks and turns like a German.

But the snow and hail melted, eventually. Donald didn’t.

Not even when Kaymer chipped away at Donald’s lead until the two were all square at the turn – the game’s two most consistent players going nine holes and accomplishing nothing – and the world No. 1 elect looked to take the lead when Donald went from a fairway bunker to a desert wash on the 10th hole.

Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald
Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald congratulate each other after Donald's 3-and-2 win over Kaymer the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. (Getty)
But Donald made a putt for par, “like he always did” sighed Kaymer, seemingly flustered for the first time . . . well, ever, and slowly rebuilt his advantage – first at the 11th when Kaymer missed a 5-footer for birdie and then at the 12th with a par.

By the time the two reached the drivable 15th the rout was on and when Kaymer failed to make birdie  – the first time all week he didn’t look every bit the world No. 1 – all that was left was the long drive through the desert back to the clubhouse.

Those who suggest Kaymer backed his way into the top ranking haven’t been paying attention. His Match Play runner-up was his seventh top-10 finish since last year’s breakthrough at the PGA Championship. He’s been the world No. 1 for some time, on Sunday the ranking caught up with that reality.

“Nobody can take that away from me,” Kaymer said.

Nor can anyone ignore the European dominance atop the world order. For the first time since October 1996 there are no Americans in the top 4 in the World Golf Ranking with Donald’s move to third. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but it is the definition of a new era.

Woods’ Round 1 loss at Dove Mountain, the second time he’s been one-and-done at the Match Play, and Phil Mickelson’s Round 2 exit may have robbed the marquee of its biggest names, but it’s hard to argue that the world’s best didn’t deliver bracket-ology gold.

Not that Donald was interested in Transatlantic power shifts. Not after five years of disappointments, not after being questioned in some circles for his apparent inability to close.

For those who mused that Donald was content cashing checks, not chasing titles, the Match Play is a game changer. It’s what drove Donald and Goss back to the drawing board late in 2007.

In simplest terms, Donald was trying to be something he wasn’t – a bomber, which in turn opened the door to bad swing mechanics. So after 2007, a year in which he made it to the Tour Championship and posted two runner-up showings, he and Goss went back to basics.

That process continued through an extended and well-planned off-season after 2010 when Donald spent a month working with Goss in south Florida. On Friday, Donald referred to his action as “a work in progress.” On Sunday, it looked every bit a work of art. That he finally ended his American victory drought was just the what, not the why or how.

“(Not winning) has been in the back of his mind consistently,” Goss said. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that he’s happy finishing second. He works harder now than he ever has and those close losses were heartbreaking to him.”

On Sunday, after the hail storms had moved out of the Oro Valley and with the sun once again illuminating the sprawling layout, Donald had the look of a man who was finally comfortable in his own skin and with his own DNA.

“I’m not a modern player, I don’t hit the ball that far,” he said. “It was frustrating to me . . . There were times where I was very disappointed and very upset that I hadn't broken through, and I can forget about that now.”

What he is is a throwback. A ballstriker with distance control and the ability to move the ball in both directions with an all-world short game. What he is is the world’s third-ranked player with more grit than he’s ever been given credit for. What he is is a three-time Tour winner who is finally out of the victory desert. Now if only someone would show him where Dove Mountain’s 18th hole is.

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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 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.”