Cut Line: Honoring Huber

By Rex HoggardJanuary 6, 2012, 6:09 pm

According to the schedule the 2012 season gets underway this week, although the late start and light field at Kapalua certainly test the boundaries of the term “grand opening.” Luckily for Cut Line the new year provides plenty fodder to fill the void, from Royal Portrush’s slow climb back to international prominence to Jeff Overton’s curious deal cutting.

Made Cut

Jim Huber. The majors won’t be the same this year. The PGA Grand Slam of Golf may never recover, not after losing Huber, who died on Monday at 67.

The Emmy Award-winning Huber was a staple at the major championships, but it was at the 2011 Grand Slam event in Bermuda that we got to know and respect his work. During the evening Q&A with the four players Huber directed traffic and defied reason with his depth of knowledge, grilling David Toms on details of his 2001 PGA victory that even the champion didn’t remember.

His essays will be missed at this year’s major stops, but his spot at the Grand Slam of Golf may never be replaced.

A trip north. Perhaps news that the Irish Open will return to Royal Portrush for the first time since 1947 isn’t exactly stop-the-press stuff, but for the venerable links it could be a sign of things to come.

Following Portrush resident Darren Clarke’s Open Championship victory last year there was a groundswell of support for the game’s oldest championship to return to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951.

The first step in that process was to bring a lesser event to Portrush to test the course and infrastructure, and June’s Irish Open qualifies as a good litmus test. As for those who say Royal Portrush is too remote and inaccessible to host an Open we have three words for you – Royal St. George’s.

Tweet of the Week: @DarrenClarke60 “Press conference (Friday) at Royal Portrush at 2 p.m. re: Irish Open then Van Morrison in concert tomorrow night in Belfast. #properweekend”


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Player Advisory Council. Votes for this year’s 16-man PAC will be finalized on Friday in Hawaii but if player reaction is any indication this will feel more like a straw poll than a Super Tuesday.

“(Tour officials) don’t listen to what is said (in PAC meetings) so there’s really no use,” said one former PAC member.

Considering the sweeping changes currently being purposed to the Q-School and Nationwide Tour process as well as the circuit’s schedule it’s in the rank-and-file’s best interest to embrace activism not apathy right now.

Gary Woodland. The hard-swinging former college point guard is a breath of fresh air among the play-for-pay set and his recent move from Hambric Sports Management to Mark Steinberg and Excel Sports qualifies as one of those circle-of-life deals, but the big man may have run through an unfortunate stop sign in the process.

Woodland’s manager at Hambric was Blake Smith, the son of affable swing coach Randy Smith who had been working with Woodland since 2005. In the wake of Woodland’s move, the elder Smith decided it was best if the two no longer worked together.

Switching agents, and caddies, is part of the game, but this has the feel of needless collateral damage.

An active lifestyle. In the same news cycle, Lucas Glover injured his knee in a paddle boarding incident and Paul Casey may have landed himself on the extended DL with a dislocated shoulder while snowboarding.

The NFL is always considered the Tour’s major rival, so much so officials moved this week’s finish in Hawaii to Monday to avoid the first weekend of playoff action, but it seems it’s the X Games with which Camp Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., should really be concerned.


Missed Cut

Hyundai Tournament of Champions. On paper this is a non-issue, a handful of the world’s best golfers playing in paradise and in primetime on the East Coast. In practice, however, the boffo blockbuster has started to feel more like golf’s version of Survivor Island.

Eleven players who were qualified for the Hyundai failed to make the trip this week, the largest number of no-shows since the event moved to Kapalua in 1999, and the 28-man field ties the record for the thinnest tee sheet.

Billed as golf’s All-Star game, attendance at Kapaula has felt more like the slam dunk contest in recent years. Missing from the opener are Phil Mickelson, who hasn’t played the Hyundai since 2001, world No. 1 Luke Donald and three of the four major champions from 2011.

The move to a Monday finish to avoid going head-to-head with the NFL playoffs will help, but unless officials find a way to improve attendance the Hyundai will continue to feel more like a soft opening.

Jeff Overton. The Tour player pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct following an incident on Dec. 10 in Bloomington, Ind., while charges of resisting law enforcement and public intoxication were dismissed.

Overton must complete 30 hours of community service and pay $165 in administrative cost, which, considering officers initially claimed he was not cooperative and was shouting at bystanders from his limousine, seems like a good deal.

Overton’s lawyer, however, wanted his day in court. “I would have like to take this to trial,” Sam Shapiro said. In December Overton told the Bloomington Herald-Times: “I feel my rights were violated. I'm sitting in my own limo and got pulled out. other than that, I'm going to let my lawyer handle it.”

Reading between the lines here, but it’s hard to tell if Overton did the right thing, or the easy thing.

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.”