The Biggest Crime

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2009, 4:28 am

PGA Tour

Rich Young once explained to a simple mind the scientific cat-and-mouse game that led to the conviction of cyclist Floyd Landis. Think CSI: Chess club with a dollop of Law & Order.

Essentially, Young and his anti-doping pocket-protected watchdogs nailed Landis because the ratio of Carbon 12 in his body was not equal to the amounts of Carbon 13, which are soy based and, he points out almost parenthetically, the basis of most synthetic steroids. Nature makes everything in equal portions, he finally explained, which makes an out-of-whack C12 to C13 ratio akin to a doping neon sign.

By comparison Doug Barron’s climb to doping immortality must have seemed like second-grade math to Young. After all, the 40-year-old journeyman had asked for permission to take testosterone and beta blockers, was denied and was promptly handed a sample bottle when he arrived at the St. Jude Classic, his only Tour event in 2009. Barron had likely already been flagged for banned substances by a lab rat somewhere by the time he missed Friday’s cut in Memphis.

Although U.S. Magistrate Tu Pham may, or may not depending on who you ask, have ruled on the letter of the law, the basic impulse for those watching from the sidelines is to establish right and wrong. But the truth is there are no sinners or saints in Barron v. PGA Tour Inc., only two distinct yet essentially noble personalities.

Barron the father and friend and family man no more wanted to circumvent the rules or gain a competitive advantage than Casey Martin wanted to upend the competitive integrity of the Tour with a golf cart.

“It’s a sad deal because the guy is not very competitive. If he needed something for his daily life he should have gotten (a therapeutic use exemption),” Jason Bohn said. “Is he really a threat to our system? He’s not gaining an advantage to play golf. His intent was to live a happy life with his family.”

Perhaps Barron’s real miscue was believing that a clear conscience and an utter lack of intent was all he needed to guide him through his troubled doping waters, when a lawyer and a mountain of legal briefs would have been much more useful.

Barron was not in the Memphis court last Friday when his lawyers argued his case for an injunction that would have allowed him to play this week’s second stage of Q-School. Perhaps he should have been because after just 10 minutes it’s evident that Barron’s conscience is clear.

“I went and saw a (Tour) doctor for one day out of my life who said I didn’t warrant (testosterone) therapy over a doctor that has seen me my whole life who said I did. That’s my biggest problem with all of this,” Barron said. “I don’t understand their thinking about this.”

Without full disclosure of the facts from all parties, it seems Barron’s plight would have likely been a vastly different tale had he not undergone a testosterone treatment just before the St. Jude Classic.

The Tour may not have liked his use of beta blockers, but his doctors had warned him of the health risks if he stopped “cold turkey” and even Young admits it would have been a much more complicated case.

But the last-minute testosterone injection, at least in Young’s mind, is the smoking gun, regardless of doctor’s orders or the best of intentions.

“The testosterone question is pretty straight forward,” Young said. “It’s straight out of the (World Anti-Doping Agency) code.”

Which, in a Twitter-society way, sums up Young the lawyer, if not the man. Simply put, a banned substance in an athlete’s body is all the witness Young needs, regardless of intent.

“(Intent) doesn’t factor in,” said Young, a soft-spoken type with a sneaky-good sense of humor often masked by a dogmatic approach to his job. “It would be very hard to prove what’s in somebody’s head and why they used? Secondly, the rules are clear – they know what they are allowed to use, Doug clearly used testosterone even though he knew he wasn’t allowed to.”

Young is, with all due respect, a bulldog guarding an empty safe. A hired gun tasked to take down a sleeping kindergartener.

Landis, by all accounts, worked tirelessly to elude detection and was armed with an army of mad scientists whose only goal is a better body through chemistry. As was once the battle cry in NASCAR, Landis participates in a sport that adheres to the “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” watchword.

It’s a reality in most sports, and the reason Young has become one of the most important people in sport. It’s why the Tour hired the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based attorney to help craft its anti-doping policy and why they sent him to the four corners of the circuit’s schedule in 2008 to educate its members.

But then golf is different. Barron is different. The guy who has called penalties on himself on the golf course did not walk into his doctor’s office more than four years ago looking for 20 extra yards off the tee or one fewer three-putt per round. But then, in fairness to Young and the Tour, they never said he did.

Barron v. PGA Tour Inc. is a story about collateral damage and a crisis of conscience. It is a tale without antagonist or hero, just two quiet and easily likable men on opposite sides of a doping reality that has no use for reason or common sense. And that may be the biggest crime.

Getty Images

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.

Amen.

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.”