High Praise for Quail Hollow

By Rex HoggardApril 30, 2010, 12:22 am
Quail Hollow ChampionshipCHARLOTTE, N.C. – It’s not Magnolia Lane, but from the moment one wheels onto the property off Gleneagles Road everything about the place screams Augusta National, from the white guardhouse tucked into a sea of foliage to the rolling greens that Stimp on the white knuckle side of high anxiety.

Bobby Jones never graced Quail Hollow’s grounds but if you look hard you can see Jones sipping an old fashion on the modest porch.

“Wait until you see it,” gushed Jay Williamson to a Quail Hollow first-timer earlier this week.

Quail Hollow’s kinship with Augusta National is distinctly by design. Of the club’s 324 members 14 have a coveted members green jacket in the closet. It is part of the charm, and the curse, of the place.

When Quail Hollow joined the PGA Tour fold in 2003 it was an instant classic, attracting a major-championship quality field to a major-championship quality venue with every bell and whistle the modern pro has come to expect.

For all those disgusted to distraction by the impending “fifth major” debate, the best way to sum up Quail Hollow is Grand Slam Lite. Check the champion’s board, Quail Hollow’s winners are a who’s who collection of major players – Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, David Toms, Jim Furyk.

“I would say it’s better than a major because it’s easier to get around,” said Dale Lynch, Geoff Ogilvy’s swing coach who has seen his share of major venues.

With high praise, however, come high expectations. And at Quail Hollow it seems those expectations may have exceeded its status as the biggest fish in a frenzied PGA Tour pond.

On paper Quail Hollow is stone-cold Tour lock with a sponsor, albeit a largely absentee check book, that is on the board through 2014, a stellar course and a tony date on the docket.

But clear, sunny skies for Thursday’s first round and beyond belie an approaching imperfect storm of major ambition and political opportunism.

Officials renamed the event the Quail Hollow Championship last year, but they may as well have dubbed it the Barney Frank Open. Frank, the outspoken congressman from Massachusetts, publically blasted TARP-recipient Northern Trust for what he viewed as corporate extravagance during last year’s Tour stop in Los Angeles. So when Wells Fargo purchased Wachovia, Quail Hollow’s original sponsor, the financial giant kept writing the checks but did so from afar.

Yet Wells Fargo’s duck-and-cover act is less of a linchpin in the Tour’s future at Quail Hollow than Johnny Harris, the omnipotent president of the club.

“We have a contract through 2014. We look forward to having the Tour here until then, and then we’re going to look at all our alternatives,” Harris told the Charlotte Business Journal this week.

And as warm and fuzzy as that endorsement sounds, Harris’ follow up was even chillier. Asked if he felt it was necessary to have an annual Tour stop he said, simply, “wouldn’t think so.”

Harris planned to meet with commissioner Tim Finchem this week. But the more important meetings may likely come in the next few months between Harris and officials from the PGA of America.

Sources close to the situation say the club, and Harris, want to host a Ryder Cup but will likely need to host a PGA Championship first. On the competitive calendar the next available PGA is 2017 and the next open date for a U.S. Ryder Cup is 2024.

With that kind of Grand Slam glory on the hook there would be little need, or open seating for the matter, for a yearly Tour stop. And, in a twisted way, Tour types seem to be writing their own ticket out of town.

Almost to a man, the reviews of Quail Hollow leave little room for ambiguity or hyperbole.

“If we all turned up here and had a U.S. Open or a PGA it would feel like a normal U.S. Open or a PGA,” said Ogilvy, three shots off the lead after Round 1. “It does feel like a major kind of place.”

Paul Goydos, who is tied with Ogilvy at 4 under, offered the ultimate player endorsement: “The green speeds are Augusta-like if not even quicker.”

Although some sources estimate there is a 60 percent chance the Quail Hollow Championship is headed for a far-to-premature swan song when its agreement with the Tour is up in 2014, one Tour veteran mused late Wednesday on the practice putting green that with a PGA or Ryder Cup the club gives up control, while with a Tour event Harris & Co. call many of the most-meaningful shots.

But does the membership, specifically Harris, want a yearly Tour stop?

“That’s a good question,” the veteran allowed.

Without question, Quail Hollow would be up to whatever major challenge they wish to tackle. But for Tour types the question remains, at what cost?

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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.”