Donald adds excitement to steadiness

By Rex HoggardMarch 23, 2012, 11:37 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – One of the game’s most reluctant showmen, Luke Donald, highlights this week’s lineup following another showstopper performance on Sunday at Innisbrook while an original headliner, Arnold Palmer, seems to have lost some of his appeal at Bay Hill.

Made Cut

Luke Donald. Late last year Pat Goss, Donald’s affable swing coach, was taking stock in his man’s season when the thought occurred, “He played some historic rounds under unique situations.”

The Englishman’s climb to the top of the world’s heap has been nothing short of dramatic. Last summer he outdueled reigning No. 1 Lee Westwood in a playoff at the BMW PGA Championship to claim the top spot in the World Golf Ranking.

In the fall he went one better, winning the season-ending stop at Disney to become the first player to collect the Cash Slam, money titles on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Donald’s most recent heroics came on Sunday at the Transitions Championship when he won a four-man playoff to reclaim the top spot from Rory McIlroy.

Seems the guy who used to be known for quietly piling up the top 10s has acquired a flair for the dramatic.

Tweet of the week: @Graeme_McDowell “Pitch dark on way to Bay Hill for Round 2. Played good yesterday, didn’t get it going on greens. Should be pure this morning. #golow”

OK, so it’s not exactly Babe Ruth calling his shot, but G-Mac did sign for a 63 on Friday.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Tiger Woods. No one in golf knows their body better than Woods and when he bolted Doral on Sunday after 11 ¼ holes with a tight Achilles tendon the decision was prudent and perfectly understandable.

Major championships are won in April in Georgia, not in March in south Florida.

However, news this week that Red Shirt slipped in a quick 18 at Augusta National on Sunday before his two-day member-member at the Tavistock Cup and the Arnold Palmer Invitational doesn’t exactly fit the photo of a player on a pitch count.

It will all add up to eight consecutive days of golf, and four tournaments in five weeks, hardly heavy lifting for most Tour types but a crowded dance card for a patient . . . eh, player with multiple knee surgeries and a glass Achilles.

Tough to second-guess a guy who pulled clear of the pack on Friday with a ball-striking clinic but after his Doral WD Woods said the new guy is content erring on the side of safety over false bravado. With two weeks to go before the Masters, we really miss the new guy right now.

Ernie Els. Nothing seems to come easy to the big South African any longer, particularly not a game that he once seemed to mock with that effortless action.

Sunday may not go down as “rock bottom” when the final scorecard is tallied, but Els’ closing collapse at Innisbrook certainly felt like ground zero.

Els missed two putts totaling 8 ½ feet coming down the stretch to finish a stroke out of a playoff and a title that earlier in his career he figured, “I would have made that putt and won the tournament by two or three shots.”

The Big Easy still has one more chance to crack the top 50 in the World Ranking and earn a spot into the Masters at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. More importantly, the way he’s played under pressure the last few weeks proves that he’ll also have a couple more chances to win. At this point, that’s the only silver lining.


Missed Cut

Nationwide Tour/Q-School. Predictably this will come down to the details.

The broad strokes of the new plan to make the Nationwide Tour the primary avenue to PGA Tour membership and Q-School a feeder system to the secondary circuit have been in place for some time and were the worst-kept secret on Tour since the invention of stopwatches proved that these guys are, indeed, slow.

It’s the small print that remains and according to this week’s announcement there are still plenty of details to iron out, including how players would be seeded for the three-event series that will ultimately award 50 Tour cards and how many FedEx Cup points the old Fall Series events will be given.

Considering Q-School’s drastically reduced status, it also remains to be seen if the Tour will still charge potential members upwards of $6,000 to play the Fall Classic.

“Great question by an aspiring pro buddy of mine, ‘Will Q-School be 1/10th the price now since the purses on t he Nationwide Tour are 10 times smaller (than on the PGA Tour)?’” wondered one Tour veteran.

A king’s crossroads. It is, as Mel Brooks opined in the cult comedy classic “History of the World Part 1,” good to be the king, unless your kingdom is a converted orange grove that has been tinkered with to the point of irrelevancy and you find yourself wedged between two World Golf Championships, the year’s first major and two of the circuit’s most-liked golf courses.

Bay Hill is, by almost every measure, the fourth-best layout on the Florida swing and its spot on the schedule is less than perfect, but players show up at the API because it is Arnold Palmer’s tournament.

Sadly, that trump card has faded in recent years and on Wednesday Palmer was asked about the high-profile no-shows this week of Nos. 1 and 2, Donald and McIlroy.

“I'm certainly not happy that those fellows chose not to come this year. We are doing everything we can to entice them to come and play,” Palmer said. “But I think we can get that squared away and maybe we'll entice them to come in the future.”

Perhaps, but McIlroy's and Donald’s absences are not a new trend. Between 2007 and 2011 the World Ranking points Bay Hill winners have received has dropped from 68 to 58, respectively. And this year’s total had dropped to 56 points for the winner, the third-lowest in the Florida Swing behind the Honda Classic (50).

Palmer is still the game’s undisputed King, but his namesake doesn’t draw a court like it used to.

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.