Cut Line Grooves Edition

By Rex HoggardFebruary 5, 2010, 10:27 pm
Meaningful golf is being played this week at storied Riviera, although it would be hard to know that amid the din of “he said, he said” that has erupted from Groovegate.

Sport hasn’t been subjected to this kind of minutia since NASCAR introduced restrictor plates. Luckily no one on Tour has gone into the wall at Turn 3, but there has been no shortage of bodies being thrown under the metaphorical bus.

Made Cut

Phil Mickelson. OK, so he’s no Rosa Parks and considering everything else that golf is dealing with right now maybe Lefty’s powers would be better applied elsewhere, but you’ve got to respect the zeal he displayed throughout this whole confusing and sordid process.

“My point has been made,” Mickelson said Wednesday in L.A.

His “point,” of course, is that the U.S. Golf Association attempted a back-door rollback of the golf ball with a convoluted grooves rule that has cost manufacturers millions of dollars, the Tour untold style points and hacker-nation their only chance to hold a hard green from a buried lie.

As Brad Faxon told GolfWorld, “I don’t see amateurs giving up the game because they say it’s too easy.”

eBay. One player called “Cut Line” Thursday afternoon giddy with excitement saying, “I found a (Ping Eye 2) wedge on eBay for $1,000.”

Whatever the outcome of Groovegate it has been a boon for aftermarket sales of the 20-year-old club and, after ridiculously marked-up Super Bowl tickets, the primary cash cow for the online flea market.

Who knew golf’s stimulus plan depended on panicked sales of out-of-date technology?

Jerry West. A year ago Riviera had a duck-and-cover feel to it after a few members of Congress made Northern Trust public enemy No. 1 for what was deemed excessive corporate hospitality.

This year, thanks in large part to “Mr. Clutch,” who was named executive director of the L.A. stop last May, ticket sales are up at Hogan’s Alley and the Northern Trust field is the young PGA Tour season’s deepest.

Of course, not all weeks are perfect. On Tuesday Kobe Bryant passed West as the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer.

No. 10 at Riviera. Seems apropos amid the grooves debate that the 315-yard 10th hole is at center stage this week.

USGA and architecture types take note, the wee 10th played to a stout 3.8 stroke average for those attempting to drive the green and a 4.05 average for those who laid up on Thursday. Sometimes bigger really isn’t better.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

John Solheim. Interesting that the villain in all this groove ugliness – after Scott McCarron, of course – is the Ping CEO.

“If he and the USGA sat down tomorrow and said we'll take that language out, then we are free,” Finchem said. “They would change their condition and we would have no problem. That would be the cleanest, easiest way.”

Let’s be clear, Ping no longer produces the Ping Eye 2s and therefore is not cashing in on the online onslaught. And while the publicity generated by Groovegate may be a guerilla marketer’s dream there are deeper issues at play here.

An industry executive who attended the final meetings between Ping and the USGA two decades ago remembers it this way: “(Solheim’s father, Karsten) stood up there and said, in closing, ‘I feel like someone has stabbed me in the back as all I ever wanted to do was produce equipment that helped people enjoy the game.’”

It will be John Solheim’s heart, not his head or Finchem’s s thinly-veiled nudges, that will decide how much ground he wishes to give, and that’s powerful stuff.

Monday morning contenders. Pundits are paid to second guess, it’s part of the DNA. But Michael Sim’s decision to layup on the 72nd hole on Sunday at Torrey Pines has been unfairly criticized in some circles.

On Sunday the young Aussie found himself one shot behind eventual champion Ben Crane and in the middle of the final fairway about 250 yards from the hole. While some have said Sim was playing for a paycheck when he laid up, the truth is he was only playing what the conditions were giving him.

What most critics missed is that the 18th played into a cold, damp wind on Sunday, which brought Devlin’s Billabong into play, and that Sim is perhaps the best wedge player in the under-30 set. For the record, just 25 of 78 players attempted to reach the green in two shots on Sunday and just eight of those players hit the putting surface.

Was he playing for a paycheck? No more so than Zach Johnson was playing for a green jacket at the 2007 Masters. And we all know how that one turned out.

Missed Cut

Tim Finchem. On Wednesday in Los Angeles the lawyer wanted to do what lawyers do, cloud the water, while the commissioner knew there had to be some crow on the menu.

The mea culpa, as it was, was short and ambiguous: “The assumption was made last year that very few, if any, players would use that club because they're 20 years old,” Finchem said.

Perhaps the letter John Solheim sent the Tour nearly two years ago regarding the impending change to the groove rule and the outstanding agreement between Ping, the USGA and Tour got lost in the mail or the bureaucratic shuffle.

Either way the rank-and-file deserved better from a commish who is paid handsomely – $5.3 million in base pay and performance bonuses in 2008 according to a recent Sports Business Journal report – to avoid these types of embarrassing situations.

Blast McCarron for his poor choice of words or Solheim for what some say is a dogmatic policy or even Mickelson for his poorly timed political statement, but don’t forget Finchem’s role in all of this when the final grades are handed out.

Tweet of the week. Ianjamespoulter. “I don’t think I’m going to go to the superbowl [sic]. I couldn’t even tell you who is playing. The atmosphere will be great down there though.”

Hint: It’s not Arsenal and Man U.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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 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.