The definition of parity

By Rex HoggardDecember 5, 2010, 5:20 am

Par-i-ty [par-i-tee] n. 1. Equality, as in amount, status, or character.

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The NFL went with a salary cap. Major League Baseball opted for luxury taxes. All the PGA Tour needed to usher in a new era of parity was one wildly unforeseeable, and infinitely complicated, year.

If the news that Jim Furyk had been named the circuit’s Player of the Year on Saturday isn’t enough to prove that competitive equality at least made a cameo in 2010, Matt Kuchar’s Tour-leading haul of $4.9 million seals it. That’s the lowest winning total for the cash crown since David Duval collected $2.5 million . . . in 1998.

As for Furyk, the Jack Nicklaus Trophy will make a fine bookend with his FedEx Cup, but his three-victory, Tour-leading total is the lowest victory tally in a decade.

For the past decade Furyk’s season would be good, not great, at least not by comparison. “It gets you on the ballot but it wouldn't get you the vote,” he admitted earlier this week.

The statistics, if not the scoreboard, confirm what the golf world has been wrestling with for months – the gulf between the Tour’s haves and have-nots has not been this narrow in some time.

Thirty-nine different players won in 2010, compared with just 31 last year, and the average Tour earnings ($1.027 million) was the third highest it’s been in a decade. It is, in essence, trickledown economics in action.

“The most telling stat is the cut score,” Stewart Cink said. “Look at the distance between the leaders and the cut. It used to be if the leader wasn’t double digits under par the cut came at over par but that’s not the case anymore. The gap (between No. 1 and 125) has definitely narrowed.”

The Tour expedited this year’s Player of the Year vote, either a nod to the obvious choice or maybe they just wanted to close the polls before Woods went on his season-ending tear at the Chevron World Challenge.

Either way, the reality that the Player of the Year was likely a lopsided affair for a non-major, non-money list winner wasn’t lost on Woods following Saturday’s announcement.

“When was the last time a player didn’t win a major got Player of the Year?” he asked. The answer? “Me?” asked Woods, who took last year’s trophy without a Grand Slam keepsake, but he did card six victories and $10.5 million in winnings.

The world No. 2’s point, however, is not lost in the minutia. Without question Woods’ wayward year is, of course, the primary reason 2010 enjoyed such competitive parity. For the first time since turning pro he failed to win a Tour event and 2010 marks just the fourth time since 1997 Woods didn’t claim the Jack Nicklaus Trophy and the fifth time he didn’t win the money title.

Whether parity is good for golf is not so clear. TV ratings and fan interest waned in the wake of Woods’ struggles this season, yet in every other sport parity is longed for, even legislated to varying degrees. Thirty million college football fans can’t be wrong, can they?

“When I first came on Tour I can still remember Greg Norman was the dominant player in the late '80s, and then there was a slow down, and I remember reading about how the PGA Tour was boring because there was no dominant player,” Furyk said. “And then along came Tiger Woods, and he dominated the world of golf for ten years. And then I remember the PGA Tour is boring because one guy kicks everyone else's rear end. It's kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don't.”

If the Tour had taken on a Mike Tyson forgone conclusion feel in recent years, 2010 was more of a revolving door of dominance. Ernie Els ruled the Florida Swing with two victories, Mickelson won the Masters but was otherwise a non-story, Furyk emerged in the late spring with his second triumph at the Heritage and Kuchar was the best of the fall.

Given the circumstances a supremacy by committee approach wasn’t entirely detrimental given that Woods spent much of the season on an emotional, if not literal, hiatus.

In baseball parlance, it was the year of the wild card with contenders large and small taking turns at the top spot.

“A couple people already mentioned the NFL. The season is fun,” Furyk said. “There are some teams you could pick for the AFC or the NFC that could win it, but it could be four or five teams on either side very easily, and I think that's fun to watch.”

Furyk, as affable and well-spoken as they come on Tour, was asked if Woods’ “off” year somehow tarnished or lessened any of his accomplishments?

“Is it going to be like the Roger Maris asterisk?” Furyk laughed. “My peers voted on it . . . everyone else had the same opportunity to win as the guy that gets voted. I don't see it. I wouldn't feel badly or there wouldn't be an asterisk in my mind.”

No, there’s no asterisk required. But unless things return to the post-Nov. 27 status quo the Tour may want to consider name tags at award ceremonies.

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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.”