Cut Line Hope-less Feeling

By Rex HoggardJanuary 14, 2011, 10:26 pm
The year’s first cut may still be a day away, the victim of torrential rains at the Sony Open, but “Cut Line” remains unaffected by La Nina – the weather cycle blamed for the current weather woes – or poor drainage.

Among this week’s early exits are LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and a desert exodus that has “Cut Line” wondering what’s next for the Bob Hope Classic?

Made Cut

Robert the Great. It may not sit well with the “Little League Dads,” and it will likely never lead to sporting immortality, but with a shoulder shrug Robert Garrigus showed why he’s one of the most refreshing players on the PGA Tour.

“That's how it goes. That's golf. I've lost about 133 golf tournaments, and it's not that big a deal,” Garrigus said following his missed 3-footer on the second playoff hole at last week’s Tournament of Champions.

From the depths of self-imposed drug rehab comes an enlightening perspective that transcends trophies and missed tap-ins.

Island hopping. It is, essentially, the best two-for-one on Tour. Play the season opener on Maui and then jump the short flight to Honolulu for the year’s first full-field event (Sony Open). It’s a good gig if you can get it, but the math has not always added up.

This year, however, the logistics of the Hawaiian two-fer have resulted in a stronger than normal field in Honolulu. Twenty-three of the 33 2010 winners who began their year at Kapalua signed on to play this week’s soggy Sony.

“If I win and go to Kapalua, I'm here (Sony Open). I don't see why you wouldn't play,” Jim Furyk said.

Of course, that shift may also have something to do with the frigid truth that there is currently snow on the ground in 49 of the 50 states.

Statute of limitations. “Cut Line” was rather clear on this last week, Camilo Villegas violated the Rules of Golf at the Tournament of Champions and it doesn’t matter if it came to light via a fellow competitor, Twitter, e-mail or smoke signal the integrity of the competition was rightfully upheld.

But the timing of Villegas’ subsequent disqualification, some 12 hours after he’d signed his scorecard, that has some demanding change. As is often the case, however, there is no easy fix. In fact, building in a “buffer” to avoid a similar situation in the future creates an entirely new set of problems.

“The whole reason the (Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews) and (U.S. Golf Association) have rejected it is there are too many ramifications if you do that,” Mike Davis, the USGA’s senior director of rules and competition, told “Cut Line.”

“If you gave Camilo a four-stroke penalty (and let him play) the problem with that is all the ramifications it has. You may all of a sudden screw up a cut. It could be the U.S. Amateur and you just played 36 holes of stroke play and your entire bracket could get messed up. Nobody likes these continued call ins, but to change it in this one instance would cause so many problems.”
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Magic Whan. It’s been a busy 2011 for LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, and the circuit is more than a month shy of its season opener.

Whan told the rank and file to hold off on booking their flights to the Tres Marias Championship in Mexico amid security concerns and now he has denied more non-member starts to teen phenom Alexis Thompson.

“We agreed for security reasons we are not convinced today that (the Tres Marias Championship) is a go,” Whan said. “We may have to move it back or postpone.”

As for Thompson, the 15-year-old wanted 12 sponsor exemptions instead of the current maximum of six. Whan said no, but did allow for non-members to compete in Monday qualifying. Thompson is a great talent, but if she wants more starts she should petition the tour for membership.
Missed Cut

Magic Whan II. The new LPGA chief isn’t batting 1.000, at least not when it comes to a proposed event that will pay players what is essentially Monopoly money.

Whan’s plan to award “mock” money to players at the inaugural Founders Cup with the actual purse going to charity is best described as the wrong execution of the right idea. Although Whan said he will pay players a stipend to help cover their expenses, the sacrifice is too great when your average LPGA player can expect somewhere between 12 and 15 starts.

Besides, if anyone in golf should be doing some pro bono work it’s the suits in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. According to reports Tour commissioner Tim Finchem earned $5.3 million in base pay and bonuses in 2008, enough to rank him third on the ’08 money list.

Tweet of the Week: @natalie_gulbis “1-11-11. Hope everyone has a great day!” she Tweeted . . . on Jan. 12.

Hope-less. The Bob Hope Classic is one of three Tour events that currently doesn’t have a title sponsor, and if the current trend continues that won’t change anytime soon.

As has become something of a tradition some of the Tour’s stars will play the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship, including Phil Mickelson, next week instead of the Hope. Tour members must be granted a “conflicting event release” to play overseas the same week as a Tour event. For next week’s Hope the Tour has issued nine releases, the same as last year.

Although eight of those players hold duel membership on the PGA and European tours, on the ground in California it still adds up to one of the weakest fields on Tour. As tournament patriarch Bob Hope once said, “If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”
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.

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.”