Cut Line: Sawgrass Sights Sounds

By Rex HoggardMay 13, 2011, 9:42 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – If The Players Championship is the best field in golf then why is Tiger Woods’ second-consecutive WD all anyone wants to talk about?

The “fifth major” will, of course, carry on without Woods, not to mention world No. 1 Lee Westwood, but as Grand Slams go this one still appears to be searching for an identity.

Made Cut

Tim Clark. The wee defending champion put aside an elbow injury to play this week – though he did have to withdraw Friday after 10 holes – and offered the ultimate gesture of respect when he had Tour officials replace the South African flag flying in the “Circle of Champions” at TPC Sawgrass with Spain’s flag in honor of the late Seve Ballesteros.

“To have his flag up there is just a small little tribute to him. Obviously he deserves a whole lot more,” Clark said. “It went beyond just Spanish golf, it was world golf.”

As if all that wasn’t enough, Clark purchased cupcakes that were served on Thursday in the Sawgrass media center. In honor of Champagne Tony Lema, “Cut Line” would like to suggest a new, however misleading, nickname – “Cupcake Timmy Clark.”

17th Heaven. “Gimmick or good hole?” Lucas Glover was asked during his Wednesday practice round at the famed island hole, sparking a debate that Johnson Wagner seemed to end with a surprising testimonial.

“(In 2008) during the playoff (between Sergio Garcia and Paul Goydos) I came out here and watched,” Wagner said. “I think it’s a great hole. It makes you hit a shot and everybody has to play it.”

Pete Dye’s contrived circus may not be universally admired, but it is always on the players’ minds and maybe that’s the best any architect can hope for.

Quail Hollow. For the second consecutive year the Carolina gem delivered another Sunday slam without the aid of anyone named Tiger or Phil, which is no easy task for any event.

The bonafide mid-major gave us Rory McIlroy’s closing masterpiece last year and Lucas Glover’s short-game clinic last Sunday, but the Tour’s status in Charlotte seemed to be put on the clock last year when Quail Hollow was named the site of the 2017 PGA and became the leader in the clubhouse for the 2024 Ryder Cup.

Word around the caddie barn last week was the event will take a hiatus from Quail Hollow in 2015, ’16 and ’17 to retool for the PGA – during which time the Wells Fargo would rotate to another Carolina course, say Pinehurst – and return to Charlotte in 2018.

Seems about right. In NASCAR country four lefts always bring you home.

Tweet of the Week: @McIlroyRory “If I’m too young to know if I like a course or not Butch (Harmon) is too old to coach . . .”

It was the Northern Irishman’s response to criticism that he skipped The Players for all the wrong reasons.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Tiger Woods. The results may have been unsightly, but you can’t fault the man for trying. At worst, Woods’ nine-hole 42 was a rehab start that simply didn’t go well. At best, it may have convinced him to take the time needed to heal a particularly concerning Achilles injury.

Recovery time for an Achilles injury is about eight weeks, which means June’s U.S. Open may be questionable. But this is the same man who won a U.S. Open on a broken leg against doctor’s orders so it’s impossible to bet against Woods at Congressional, healthy or otherwise.

Golf needs Woods, but what it really needs is the former alpha male on two good legs.

Phil Mickelson. Lefty is no stranger to arm chair architecture, and Thursday’s indictment of TPC Sawgrass’ par-3 13th green, which he double bogeyed with an 8-iron in his hands, was anything but subtle.

“When I design courses I try not to screw the player like that,” Mickelson said. “I try to keep it a little fair.”

Outspoken assessments are certainly part of Mickelson’s charm, but it must be pointed out that this is the same player who is on record saying, “(Nos.) 16, 17 and 18 (at TPC Sawgrass) combine for the greatest risk-reward opportunity in all of golf.”

Sometimes a bad bounce is just a bad bounce, not the byproduct of a bad golf course.


Missed Cut

May day. Five years into the experiment, The Players' move to the drier confines of May seems to be a relative success, but – as usual – unintended consequences have cropped up.

Conflicts with the European Tour schedule, which is heading into an important stretch, cost the event Westwood and McIlroy this year and the fields at the Byron Nelson and Colonial have been impacted by a seven-week run that includes the Wells Fargo, Players, Memorial and the U.S. Open.

Warmer temperatures may also be having an impact on the fans. The grandstands around the Stadium Course’s 18th hole were removed this year because, according to one official, it is simply too hot to sit and watch.

“I’m cynical, I know, but it feels non-major-esque,” said one Tour player.

Rory Sabbatini. We may never know what, if any, action is taken against the Tour’s bad boy for his reported misbehavior in New Orleans last month but this much is certain, without a more transparent system no amount of fines or suspensions are going to do much good.

Sabbo told Golfweek magazine: “I heard it all. Supposedly I had a fight with (Sean) O’Hair and I told the Tour to ‘F-off.’ Hearsay is hearsay.”

Although the facts remain unconfirmed, there is little doubt something happened at TPC Louisiana. Memo to Sabbo: misleading denials do no one any good, just ask Barry Bonds.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

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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.”