Brilliance at the BMW

By Rex HoggardSeptember 14, 2009, 4:56 am
BMW Championship 2007 LogoLEMONT, Ill. – Seems about right that the same weekend Michael Jordan was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame Tiger Woods would do his MJ thing at Cog Hill, sans the tongue waging and buzzer-beating histrionics.

Uproot that bronze statue of Jordan in front of the United Center, replace the basketball with a well-worn Scotty Cameron putter and rename Cog Hill the House that Woods built, with apologies to the Jemsek family that has toiled for generations to make the Southside staple something special.

Word is Cog Hill is angling for a U.S. Open and has early dibs on the golf portion of an Olympic itinerary if the Second City gets the IOC’s first nod. Following Woods’ Draconian weekend on the nip/tucked Dubsdread layout the world No. 1 is fine with both options. While they are at it, perhaps the powers could rotate a Ryder Cup, PGA Championship and World Golf Championship through Cog Hill.

Babe Ruth built old Yankee Stadium by hitting dingers. Woods made Cog Hill his own by hitting fairways (41 of 56, T-15), greens (50 of 74, T-4) and every putt that mattered (106, T-2) over four cloudless days.

Chicagoland hasn’t been manhandled like this since the days of Al Capone, who was a Cog Hill regular back in his day.

Sunday’s final lap was a formality, made so by Woods’ scorching 62 on Saturday that gave him a touchdown head start entering the final turn. No one has ever blown a 54-hole lead of seven strokes or more, particularly if his name is Woods.

But Tour types are sticklers for 72-hole events, so off Woods went alongside Brandt Snedeker – who plays fast, talks fast and is fast finding his old form – and a Rugby 7s player, or so it seems when Marc Leishman takes a lash.

Truth be told neither Woods nor anyone else made things interesting as far as the BMW crown was concerned on Sunday. A bogey at No. 5, his first in 21 holes, did little more than mock those a half dozen strokes adrift and his messy birdie from a concession stand and the trees along the ninth fairway made it clear everyone else was playing for “B” flight honors.

A day earlier Woods put the metaphorical fork in the field at the ninth, carving his second shot from 303 yards to 10 feet for eagle. The next 101 strokes were little more than accounting.

“When I got to 10 I remember a few holes back Tiger was at 15 (under),” said Jim Furyk, who rallied with a final-round 66 to finish tied for second place with Leishman. “I started thinking, well, what if? What if he made another bogey? I asked my caddie where he stood and he said, ’17 (under).’ I just started laughing. I thought, back to the real world.”

Cog Hill officials weren’t laughing after Woods’ Saturday 62 likely sent Rees Jones back to the drawing board, U.S. Golf Association officials to another Chicago-area Open venue and Olympic officials to Tokyo or Rio. Gold medals don’t come easy, unless your name is Michael Phelps, and simply put Woods has made the game look easy at Cog Hill.

The well-hit putts that didn’t drop on Sunday at Hazeltine National, the drives that didn’t find the fairway at Liberty National all fell into place at Cog Hill. The result? An eight-stroke victory, Tour title No. 71, which places him two behind Jack Nicklaus on the all-time list, and both hands firmly on the Player of the Year trophy.

This was a Woods of a different sort, unencumbered by the constraints of either a balky putter or a slightly off driver and emboldened by a thorough understanding of his swing.

“The most important thing is that I know he is improving which is his main goal always,” Hank Haney said in an e-mail to Golf “It is exciting for me to see that when things aren't exactly right Tiger can fix himself. As he has said he is getting better all the time at that. He has a great understanding of what he is trying to do and how to do it.”

Following his BMW blowout it’s difficult to grasp the uncertainty of 12 months ago. Still recovering from ACL surgery, unsure of when he would be able to start chasing history again Cog Hill may as well have been the moon last fall.

“There was so many uncertainties at the beginning of the season. I didn't know how the leg was going to respond. I've never had a leg that was stable. I can't remember the last time I had a leg that was stable, that didn't hurt when I played,” said Woods, who finished at 19-under 265 total after a closing 68. “There was so many different things that I didn't know, and I hadn't played competitively since the (U.S.) Open. A lot of guys had played well, and I hadn't played at all. So there was a lot of uncertainty. To come back and be, as I said, this consistent feels pretty good.”

The answers came in a flourish on Saturday and transformed Sunday’s final turn into a surreal study of the mundane.

Not since Jean Van de Velde booted a British Open has the top of a leaderboard drawn so little interest, part a product of Woods’ dominance and part an element of new math.

Event: BMW ChampionshipA dozen players were vying for a spot in the Tour Championship while another half dozen were looking to slip into the coveted top 5 in points, and, as minutia goes, it was exciting stuff.

Luke Donald limped home with a 73 and watched the computer nervously while the final two groups closed out their rounds. “It’s insane,” Donald’s wife, Diane, sighed.

And Donald’s plight wasn’t even close to the day’s most insane.

For most of the day Brandt Snedeker was in, then he was out after needing four putts from 12 feet at the last. John Senden was out, then he was in, thanks to said four-putt. A bogey at the last would have earned Snedeker a trip to East Lake, instead he’s on furlough until Turning Stone.

“I just started thinking about the wrong things,” said an emotional Snedeker, who said he asked about his FedEx Cup status walking up the 18th hole. “I did everything I wasn’t supposed to do. It shouldn’t affect me. It shows how weak mentally I am.”

It was a measure of drama at an event that would have otherwise been devoid of any, yet ultimately the day belonged to Woods.

Only the world No. 1 could rescue golf from the ratings depths of the NFL’s opening weekend, and only the math club could transform East Lake from a formality into a fight, or “sprint” as Woods called it.

Without the points reset, which narrows the gap between Nos. 1 and 2 to 250 points and guarantees the FedEx Cup to any player that is in the top 5 that wins the Tour Championship, Woods would need only to remain upright and lucid to claim his second FedEx Cup.

But then given his Cog Hill performance it will take much more than creative math to keep Woods from winning the FedEx Cup. Thankfully for the other 29 hopefuls bound for Atlanta, they aren’t playing the Tour Championship at Cog Hill.
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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.”