Cut Line Bye BMW Hello Super Bowl

By Rex HoggardSeptember 18, 2009, 10:31 pm
A rare “bye” week on the PGA Tour docket gives the remaining playoff hopefuls a chance to rest, Brandt Snedeker a chance to finish putting out on the 18th at Cog Hill and “Cut Line” an opportunity to catch its breath.

The Tour Championship may not be golf’s Super Bowl, just ask Tiger Woods, but it’s interesting exclamation point on three hurried weeks and a reason, finally, to look forward to East Lake.

Made Cut

Merion/Walker Cup. The two-day match likely slipped under many fans’ radar, and that’s a shame.

Forget about the United States’ walkover, which gives the red, white and bling a clean sweep of all the game’s major Cups right now, the event itself has been described as the purest in all golf, featured an impressive swansong for Rickie Fowler, who went 4-0 before turning pro, and showcased a classic American layout.

Jason Gore once told “Cut Line” he considered giving up Tour life not long ago and reapplying for his amateur status in hopes of playing in another Walker Cup, and if one watched any of the proceedings last week you could see why.

We also got a taste of Merion, that classic gem that had been made an afterthought by the modern game. Short and quirky with devilish greens, the U.S. Golf Association will take some attendance lumps at a Merion Open but it will be worth every penny.

As for the future of American golf, that 16 ½-9 ½ thumping says it all.

Dismantling of the grass ceiling. Some say Shoal Creek and the 1990 PGA debacle forced golf to take a hard look at its exclusionary practices, at least on the major championship level. Condoleeza Rice’s recent actions may force the game’s powers to take another hard look at the Alabama layout.

The world learned last week that Rice had become a member of the Birmingham club. While there may be too much bad blood to bring Shoal Creek back into the Grand Slam fold, Rice’s name has also surfaced as a potential member at Augusta National.

The move could also spur action at other clubs that have been excluded from the major championship conversation because of membership issues like Chicago’s Butler National and Cypress Point in California. Rice’s move may not be a game-changer, but it certainly makes the game much more inclusive.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Brandt Snedeker.
It was an ugly and utterly unexpected moment for the Tennessee towhead. A two-putt from 12 feet last week at Cog Hill’s 18th hole and he’s playing next week’s Tour Championship, four unsightly swipes later he was out of the playoffs.

Snedeker cost himself at least $90,125, the two-stroke difference between a T-6 and his eventual tie for 10th and a guaranteed $2,000 for last place at East Lake, as well as starts in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, but he earned a ton of currency with the half dozen scribes and two dozen autograph seekers, or where they mourners, who he dutifully accommodated outside the clubhouse.

We once asked Roberto De Vicenzo, the author of perhaps the game’s most-glaring gaffe at the 1968 Masters, if he would do things different if he could. “No,” he said. “For 30 years it made me cry. Now, it makes me smile.”

Chicago golf. The landscape of Chicago has suddenly become very interesting. Although the $5.2 million makeover Cog Hill underwent before this year’s BMW Championship was met with mixed reviews, at best, the USGA had to like the eventual champion as well as the scoring.

Although Tiger Woods finished at 19 under, only three other players finished with double digit under-par totals on a course that didn’t play anywhere near the tips and with little rough. And Rees Jones also gave USGA set-up man Mike Davis plenty of teeing options.

Chicagoland now has two viable Open options, Cog Hill and Olympia Fields, and from what we saw of Medinah’s No. 3 course last week the PGA Championship now has a comfy second home in the “Second City.”

Missed Cut

A generation on scholarship.
The playoffs aren’t perfect, and no amount of creative math will change that. Golf has four Super Bowls and they are played in April, June, July and August. But the Tour now has a feverish finish that’s worth watching, with all the pieces of the marquee in place and a Tour Championship that, however contrived, means something.

Woods won the BMW Championship by eight strokes and had his lead cut from 1,504 points to 250 points, as good a reason as any to mail a calculator to Ponte Vedra Beach. But without the heavy-handed reset, East Lake would be about as suspenseful as an Atlanta Braves game.

The Tour also found a cure for mediocrity, as evidenced by a comment in a recent edition of Golfweek magazine by Brett Quigley. “I know I controlled my own destiny, but it’s still a little frustrating. I made the cut both (playoff) weeks and dropped 26 positions,” Quigley said.

We like Quigley, truth is it’s hard not to, but a tie for 67th (Barclays) and 61st (Deutsch Bank Championship) is, by definition, mediocre play and should not be rewarded. And that may be the best endorsement of the Tour’s current model we’ve heard.

Jim Thorpe. The Champions Tour staple pled guilty to two counts of failure to pay income taxes last week.

Thorpe agreed to pay all taxes (more than $1.5 million), interest and penalties to the Internal Revenue Service for 2002-2004. It’s the second time he’s run afoul of the IRS. In 1993 and 1994 Thorpe had 'significant' income, but the IRS had no record of tax returns having been filed. At the time Thorpe said he had two accountants and he thought they were handling his taxes.

An old Tour saw comes to mind. All Tour players are Republicans, until they miss a cut and then they become Democrats.

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.”