Cut Line: USGA's grand experiment at Pinehurst a success

By Rex HoggardJune 20, 2014, 8:40 pm

After a favorable fortnight in the Sandhills of North Carolina, the USGA’s gamble to play consecutive championships on the No. 2 course has proven to be a major success and leads off this edition of a Pinehurst Cut Line.

Made Cut

Let’s play two. There was no small amount of concern in the run up to the USGA’s grand experiment at Pinehurst the last two weeks.

The storied No. 2 course would be pronounced DOA following last week’s U.S. Open and the field for this week’s U.S. Women’s Open would be left with the wilted remains, is how the handwringing went.

But the USGA crowned a worthy champion last Sunday, a German on a mission it turns out, and didn’t kill all the grass along the way.

Response from the players at the Women’s Open through one round has been favorable, and the added exposure this week’s championship received is immeasurable.

“It's a lot better than I thought it was going to be. I can tell you that,” Stacy Lewis said earlier this week. “When I came here three weeks ago and played, and once I saw the golf course, I became more comfortable with this whole idea and knew that it wouldn't be bad.”

A favorable forecast the last two weeks allowed officials to keep the No. 2 course just this side of the living dead, but it’s the USGA that took the gamble and deserve the credit.

German engineering. When Martin Kaymer climbed to No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking in 2011 he wasn’t sure if he had the complete game to stay there.

Even at the Ryder Cup in 2012, the German was not the most confident player in the European team’s locker room, although he would go on to hole the winning putt at Medinah.

Since then Kaymer has refined and expanded his game on his way to a pair of high-profile titles in his last four starts (the U.S. Open and The Players).

This time the climb to the top has been much more enjoyable for Kaymer, because he knows he has the game to stay there.

Tweet of the week: @ErikCompton3 “#Pinehurst fans I have never felt so much energy. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the support. It kept me going. #USOpen”

Think I can speak for the Twitter-verse here – thank you, Erik.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

So far, so good. The PGA Tour unveiled the fall portion of the 2014-15 schedule this week with few surprises.

The Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss., which was last played in July opposite last year’s Open Championship, will move to early November and will now be played opposite the WGC-HSBC Champions.

The Tour, however, still has not addressed the 2015 portion of next season’s schedule, specifically where, or if, the WGC-Match Play Championship will be played.

Accenture dropped its sponsorship of the event this year and the talk on Tour is that the event is poised to move to a new venue. But an early draft of next year’s schedule shows that there are no open dates on the calendar until after The Players in May.

Tour events come and go with little concern, but losing a high-profile event like the Match Play would cause many players to sit up and take notice.

Age limits. Give Stacy Lewis credit for saying what many around the game were thinking, an 11-year-old playing the national championship may not be the best recipe for success.

Earlier this week Lewis was asked about Lucy Li, 11, who is the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. The normally outspoken veteran didn’t hold back.

“I'm not a big fan of it,” Lewis said. “She qualified, so we can't say anything about that. You qualify for an Open, it's a great thing. I just like to see kids be successful at every level before they come out here. I would like to maybe see her play some U.S. Ams, play the Pub Links and get into match play, where you have some experience. I just like to see kids learn how to win before they come get beat up out here.”

Lewis later went on to clarify her remarks and Li’s presence, if not her game, has been applauded by many, but that doesn’t make Lewis’ initial take on the issue, not the player, any less valid.

The Opens are the game’s most democratic championships, but as the game continues to trend younger USGA officials need to be aware that there will be a point of diminishing returns in the not-so-distant future.

Missed Cut

Trumped. Donald Trump wasn’t alone in his assessment of Pinehurst No. 2 last week, it’s just that whether we like it or not “The Don’s” voice carries a long distance in golf circles these days.

Trump took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with the appearance of the No. 2 course during last week’s U.S. Open.

“The only reason I am critical of the Pinehurst look is because I’m a lover of golf, and that look on TV hurts golf badly,” Trump tweeted on Monday, followed by a second tweet on Wednesday, “I was right. TV ratings for (the) U.S. Open are way down from last year. People don’t want to look at a burned out, ugly course.”

Never mind that the brown and scruffy look was exactly what the USGA and architects Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore were going for with their minimalist redesign.

Officials are trying to sell the idea that “brown is the new green” in golf course design for a number of reasons – including water conservation and reduced maintenance costs – and it doesn’t help when Trump, who currently hosts a Tour event at his property in Doral and is scheduled to host the 2022 PGA Championship at another one of his courses, weighs in with a wildly uneducated opinion.

Trump is a man of many talents and even more jobs, but when it comes to being golf’s unofficial spokesperson we have a simple message for him – you’re fired.

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.