Friends, former coach not surprised how Watson won

By Rex HoggardApril 10, 2012, 4:03 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – As Erik Compton watched Sunday’s action unfold everything seemed in its proper order.

The folksy glide, the unorthodox swing, the fearless abandon, Compton had seen it for years but as Bubba Watson made his way through Augusta National’s historic closing stretch his former University of Georgia teammate noticed something different.

There was a focus in Watson’s face, maybe even a calm, if such a concept exists in that marvelously manic mind. When the eventual champion’s tee shot sailed into the trees right of the 10th fairway on the second playoff hole Compton knew something was different. Something special was about to happen.

“I get it because I have the ADD (attention deficit disorder) thing. He sees things in curves,” said Compton, who grew up playing junior golf against Watson and later with him at Georgia. “I knew he’d have a shot (at the second playoff hole). I think he won the Masters because he hit it in the trees. If he’d hit in the fairway he would have had a harder shot.”

Video: Watson surprises 'Morning Drive' crew with 30-minute guest appearance

It is the delicate balance of what Watson calls “Bubba golf.”

Compton took it a step further, calling it “Bubba’s way,” because it’s not just the blur-of-moving-parts swing that defines Watson, it’s the entire package – fearless, often to a fault, frequently distracted and undoubtedly talented, everyone who has ever been around Watson has immediately known that.

When Heath Slocum’s father took the head professional job in the early 1990s at Tanglewood Golf & Country Club in Milton, Fla., he immediately heard the rumors about the skinny fifth-grader who could hit it a country mile and curve it even farther.

“You could see he was raw, but he had to be good,” Slocum said. “He had so much game. I saw him try stuff that at the time I didn’t think was possible, and a lot of the time he pulled it off.”

So when Slocum, who was on vacation with his family and eating dinner when Sunday’s playoff reached its climax, received a text message from a friend that read, “(Bubba) just hooked a wedge 50 yards onto the green (at the second playoff hole). Two putts to win,” he wasn’t surprised.

The Tanglewood 19th hole is filled with tales of Watson’s fearless feats. Some of them are even true, outlandish stories that Georgia men’s golf coach Chris Haack had heard when he recruited the junior college transfer in 1999.

Haack took Watson to play Augusta National for the first time in the spring of 2000 and watched with great interest, and perhaps a little nostalgia, as his former player slashed his way to victory.

To Haack it was quintessential Bubba. He’d seen it for years when they’d march Watson to the bottom of the practice tee at the University of Georgia Golf Course and he’d pelt the range shed with drives.

“That was a 300-yard carry, uphill,” Haack laughed. “And that was before the new ball. I saw that a bunch; he was always a creative shot-maker and his game hasn’t changed much.”

Watson’s mind, however, has evolved. That was clear on Sunday when he birdied four consecutive holes starting at the 13th, when he split the fairway at the 72nd hole to virtually assure a playoff and when he calmly two-putted the second extra frame for victory.

It is telling that for Haack it was Watson’s putting, not his power, that impressed the most. Under pressure, the longtime coach had seen Watson’s tendency to decelerate on short putts.

These tendencies had shown up before.

Last month, Watson went into the final round at the WGC-Cadillac Championship with a three-stroke lead, signed for an outward loop of 39 and finished a stroke behind Justin Rose. At the 2010 PGA Championship, he bogeyed the 71st hole to drop into a playoff with Martin Kaymer and dumped his approach shot into a hazard on the third extra hole on his way to a double bogey to lose by a stroke.

“Just the fact that he had a fairly level head impressed me the most,” said Haack, who was contacted by the Georgia athletic director on Monday and informed to tell Watson that the school plans to honor him at a home game next football season.

But if clarity of thought when it mattered was the key for those who have watched Watson evolve from rail-thin swashbuckler to major  champion, it was his slashing creativity that most will remember from the 2012 Masters.

Watson bristled late Sunday when it was suggested he couldn’t hit a straight shot saying, “I can hit it straight. It’s just it’s easier to see curves.” Those who have watched, however, beg to differ.

“I’m sure he could hit one but it might be a mistake,” Haack said, while Compton’s take was more pointed, “He says he can hit a straight shot, but I don’t believe it.”

The world may love “Bubba golf” in the wake of Watson’s major breakthrough, but consider Haack’s plight as a coach who always had to walk the fine line of trying to temper such immense talent.

“On one hand you tried to make observations on how to play a particular hole, but you didn’t want to take his strength out of his hands,” Haack said. “He is aggressive and powerful and that’s great, but it did bite him a few times.”

A “few times,” may be a bit of an understatement. Truth is on any given day Watson could win a tournament or finish last, it all depended on his mood and his ability to make magic out of mistakes like he did late Sunday at Augusta National.

“He could be 11 under par (in a team qualifier) and not qualify,” Compton recalls. “He could make an 18 on any hole. A 400-yard par 4 he tries to drive, you never knew. He’s Tin Cup, but he’s Tin Cup with a green jacket now.”

The artist, however flawed, finally has his masterpiece.

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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.”