Cut Line The Crosby Conundrum

By Rex HoggardFebruary 12, 2011, 1:50 am
The Clambake is never a good week to miss the cut because that means one less round on venerable Pebble Beach Golf Links, not that Tiger Woods, who hasn’t played the old Crosby since 2002, seems much interested in the greatest meeting of land and sea.

Made Cut

Common sense. At least that’s what PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem hopes will prevail when the U.S. Golf Association comes up with a solution to the rules issue du jour.

Finchem, who met with the USGA last week to discuss a series of disqualifications resulting from incorrect scorecards, said he expects there will be “a few, little, small” changes to the rule, but also stressed that the Tour will continue to investigate potential violations that are reported from viewers, like the ones that got Camilo Villegas and Padraig Harrington bounced earlier this year.

“We like the fact that people call in. We like the fact people who watch the telecasts get excited about something they see,” Finchem said.

Lucas Glover said it best during an interview this week on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive:”  “I’d rather be correct than be called a cheater.”

European Ryder Cup. Last year’s captain Colin Montgomerie said of the wildcard selection process, “that was a terrible day for me.” We can only guess how Paul Casey felt that day, having been left off the team despite being ranked seventh in the world at the time.

All of which partially explains why Europe’s 2012 skipper Jose Maria Olazabal went back to a two-pick system. But the more interesting element of the new European selection process is the qualifying window.

The Europeans start collecting points at the European Masters this September, which is similar to the changes made by 2008 U.S. captain Paul Azinger when he weighted his system heavily toward the most recent 12 months going into Valhalla.

It’s tough to argue with Azinger’s results. Now, if only the jackets that run the world golf ranking could come around to the single-calendar concept.

Frank Chirkinian. Credit must also go to Finchem and Jim Nantz for leading the campaign that landed the man known as “the father of televised golf” in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

There are no shortage of curious HOF misses each year, but had Chirkinian, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in September, been inducted into the Hall too late to enjoy the honor, it would have somehow seemed empty.

“He created the template for how golf is televised,” Nantz told Golf Channel insider and Golf World senior writer Tim Rosaforte. “There's not a golf show on the air anywhere that does not have Chirkinian’s finger prints on it.”

Tweet of the week: @geoffogilvy “10 years ago this week I played my first Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and this week to celebrate that milestone I thought I would play my second.”
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Timing. If urban legend is to be believed, Woods was coming back to the Clambake for the first time since 2002 before fate and timing intervened.

According to multiple Tour sources, former-Woods-sponsor AT&T lobbied to reduce the field size at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and to have Poppy Hills removed from the Crosby rotation and replaced with the popular Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club a few years back.

It was all designed to woo Woods back to the Pro-Am and it would have worked, some say, if not for the scandal that gripped golf last year. Amid allegations of serial infidelity AT&T dropped its sponsorship of Woods and likely cost Pebble Beach an encore visit from the former world No. 1.

From the reality-is-stranger-than-fiction department: one of the few people who could actually afford a green fee at Pebble Beach won’t even consider a few “comp” rounds.

New tunes. Darius Rucker of 'Hootie and the Blowfish' fame has penned a song for the PGA Tour called “Together, Anything is Possible.” We can only assume the lyrics “Together, any round can be played in four hours” must have already been taken.

Jones-ing for a rematch. The good news for Brendan Jones is that at 61st in the world ranking he’s probably a lock to make the field for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, which will be set with Monday’s rankings.

The bad news is if someone withdraws or Tiger Woods drops in the ranking he may get a rematch of the worst kind. Jones went down to Woods, 3 and 2, at the 2009 Match Play in the latter’s first event back following an 8-month hiatus from competitive golf.
Missed Cut

U.S. Golf Association. Or, maybe the “MC” should go to the world golf ranking, but in this case the blemish is best shared.

Last weekend’s announcement that the USGA will rely more on the ranking instead of various money lists for entry into the U.S. Open seemed like an easy enough decision until one talks to the players impacted the most by the current ranking.

“Get rid of the ‘home tour’ bonus, get rid of appearance fees, get rid of the two-year rotation, up the purses in Europe and see where the guys want to play. If you want a legitimate ranking, that’s what you would have to do,” Arron Oberholser said.

There is no easy fix for the current system, and there may not be a remedy considering the fragmented state of the global game, but this much is certain, ignoring the problems and making the curious ranking math even more important is no substitute for real solutions.

European Tour. News that the circuit is set to announce the 2018 Ryder Cup site seemed to dovetail with speculation that the event will go to the highest bidder, a nondescript list that includes one layout that hasn’t been built in Spain.

With a monsoon of respect for the most recent European venues – The Belfry, The K Club and Muddy Manor, eh . . . Celtic Manor – “Cut Line” has two words for the powers that be: Castle Stuart.

The new links just outside of Inverness in northern Scotland looks like it’s been there for 200 years, which is an accomplishment in a country where anything built after 1900 is consider nouveau, has ample space for parking and corporate tents and enough risk/reward holes to make the USGA’s Mike Davis giddy with possibilities.

And for those who worry about the weather in northern Scotland in September we offer a simple question: Could the forecast have been much worse in Scotland last October than in Wales?
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.”