Hello My Name is Martin

By Rex HoggardApril 1, 2011, 4:03 pm

“Yo,” the scruffy-looking one-day pass holder barked across the barrier in the shadow of Doral Resort’s sprawling hub, “Who’s that?”

Um, Martin Kaymer . . . world No. 1, major champion and among a handful of favorites at the Masters despite having gone 0-for-3 in cuts made at the venerable Georgia enclave.

That the reigning alpha male may be relegated to wearing a “Hi, my name is . . .” tag while plying his trade part time in the United States this year is less of a surprise than it is a sign of truly strange times atop the world order. The 26-year-old baby-faced German has a grand total of 32 career start on the PGA Tour and, at least in some fan’s jingoistic eyes, Dustin Johnson’s major sitting atop his mantel.

But then the answer may have flummoxed “Joe Beer Tent” less than the simple truth the golf world is slowly coming to grips with, Kaymer is not renting the top ranking so much as he is settling into a long-term lease.

In the last 24 months Kaymer has seven global victories and has not had a weekend off anywhere since the 2010 Scottish Open . . . in July. He followed his PGA Championship breakthrough with a walk-off in his first tournament back, went 2-1-1 in his first Ryder Cup for Captain Monty and cruised to the European Tour’s Race to Dubai trophy.

The young man Nick Faldo let tag along at the 2008 Ryder Cup and preeminent caddie Fanny Sunneson quietly raved about has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Maybe even his own.

The moment hit Kaymer, like it normally does, at the corner of mundane and unexpected. It was a quiet dinner with his father, Horst, brother, Philip, and a close friend in a Scottsdale, Ariz., steakhouse. After the main course was cleared the kitchen delivered a special desert with “Congratulations, No. 1 in the world” etched into the icing.

“My dad and me, we were just looking at each other in a strange way and then we both thought I think the same thing; how cool it is to be No. 1,” Kaymer said. “There's no one else in the world who is better in the sport than you.”

If that kind of introspection seems a bit deep for a 26-year-old a year-and-a-half removed from a potentially career-ending go-kart injury it is the first of many misconceptions about the world No. 1 – preconceived or otherwise.

The “stoic German” label may sound plausible but any correlation between Kaymer and Bernhard Langer, the last German to hold the top spot some 25 years ago, stops at the passport.

“He is very far away from Bernhard, oddly enough,” said Kaymer’s manager Johan Elliot with Sportyard Management. “On the golf course they are similar, but other than that he is the perfect ambassador for the modern generation.”

Imagine a player hours removed from his first major victory, adrenaline still pumping, mind racing. Now imagine Kaymer huddled into a corner booth at an Illinois McDonald’s on his way from Whistling Straits to Chicago because, “It was the only thing open,” laughs Elliot. Now imagine that same young mind trying to come to grips with his dramatically altered path, and Kaymer’s answer to such an esoteric question says more than that finely-tuned game ever could.

“It’s not that (the PGA) didn’t matter, but he immediately started talking about what will define you is what you will do next,” Elliot recalls from the conversation in the Chicago-land fast-food staple.

If the knock against younger players has any validity, that success and money don’t breed hunger, then Kaymer is something else altogether – not young or even German by many measurements. A “world citizen” as Elliot figures.

Getting to know Kaymer is like pro golf’s version of “MythBusters.” His swing is more feel than technique, his sense of humor more Benny Hill than Bernhard Langer and his view of success rooted in the long haul more than the here and now.

The lion’s share of that grounding comes courtesy Horst Kaymer. The elder Kaymer’s youngest son, Philip, went on to become a lawyer. Martin world No. 1. That’s halfway to a parenting Grand Slam.

The good Kaymer stock separated Martin from the pack early. When he signed with Elliot and Sportyard Horst smiled, “I looked after him for 22 years,” Horst Kaymer told Elliot. “Now it’s your job.”

Easy work if you can get it.

Kaymer shunned equipment deals of any kind his first year as a pro because he wanted to give himself the best possible chance to succeed, not make a check. At 21 he won his first European Challenge Tour event by two strokes (Vodafone Challenge) the day after he learned his mother had cancer and would finish 2006 with two victories and a European Tour card. He won his first European Tour event in 2008 and has been closing on the top ranking ever since whether American fans noticed or not.

Not that he’s had much interest in the top spot. In fact, when he defeated Bubba Watson in the semifinals at this year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship to wrest the mathematical chalice from Lee Westwood it was a relief more so than a reason to celebrate.

“Surreal, but nice,” was Kaymer’s first thought when asked about his new spot atop the world order at Dove Mountain.

Since then he’s settled into the title, if not the expectations. In a David Duval-esque moment at Doral he eluded to his thoughtful side, and a depth that goes well beyond a controlled fade that is more repeatable than an episode of “Two and a Half Men,” when asked how it felt to be the world No. 1

“Yeah, I'm happy, and I'm satisfied, but there's still something missing,” he said.

It will likely take a little longer for the American masses to settle into the unknown commodity perched atop the world roost. His schedule in the United States will be limited to 12 events this year because he decided, like Westwood and Rory McIlroy, not to take up PGA Tour membership.

“It just wasn’t the right time,” Elliot said.

Until that “right time” he may want to consider a “Hello, my name is . . .” tag. Or, he can just keep winning.


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 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.”