International Men of Mystery

By Rex HoggardOctober 8, 2009, 2:46 am

Presidents CupSAN FRANCISCO – Don King couldn’t sell this lemon. Not with an unlimited marketing budget and the Rockettes making sales calls. Not with a stroke a side for Adam Scott and a two-club rule for Tiger Woods. Not if both Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh went to a belly putter at Harding Park.

Anything can happen in match play, we’ll hear that a lot the next 96 hours, but on paper, the Brawl by the Bay is a bust. That has to change, just probably not this week and that’s a shame.

The best chance for renewal will be in 2011 at Royal Melbourne. For the record, we’ll go four days at Harding Park and see where the American flags fall. If history holds, most will go in the ‘W’ column.

If International captain Greg Norman is looking for a celeb assistant, a la Michael Jordan, he should get Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin to draw up this week’s game plan: anything within a touchdown is a moral victory and defense is the best offense. Go, fight, win.

Angel Cabrera Camilo Villegas Presidents Cup
International team members Angel Cabrera (left) and Camilo Villegas are paired together for the opening foursome matches. (Getty Images)

America loves winners, to a point. Eventually the masses turn on you (See: Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees, Mike Tyson), and America’s 5-1-1 Presidential line has rendered a once-promising grudge match something of a Ryder Cup test match.

After the major championships, team events are golf at its best. Even last week’s Tour Championship couldn’t touch Valhalla on the “chills meter.” And the Presidents Cup has all the juice to be top shelf – the game’s biggest stars, a classic municipal golf course, contrived head-to-head matchups only the golf gods can deliver at the majors, and Jordan.

The only thing that’s missing is parity. It's been that way since the beginning.

“You know what, they're just going to have to move it south. When we go south, we're good. We either win or we actually tie. When we play north, we have difficulty, so move it south,” said Ernie Els, noting the only International victory (Australia) and tie (South Africa) have come south of the equator.

It’s a fine point, but then what chance does the world side have north of Monterey?

Rename this the 24-man Skins Game and what we have is off the charts, but this event has the foundation to be so much more. So much better, in fact, than the Ryder Cup.

History aside, the founding fathers have this one right – six matches on Days 1 and 2, leaving no one out of the fray, and captains matching each other during each pairing session (I will see your Phil Mickelson/Anthony Kim and raise you a Geoff Ogilvy/Tim Clark).

All that is missing is a little helmet-on-helmet. Two years ago at Royal Montreal the matches were over before most Canadians opened their Sunday morning newspapers, but the event scored a last-minute mulligan when favorite son Mike Weir took down Woods in a heated singles match.

But warm and fuzzy only goes so far. Sooner or later substance, not style, must define an event.

The Ryder Cup suffered from a lack of interest and intensity until the powers pulled the rest of Europe onto the GB&I side. So unless the International side can annex Windermere, Fla., it’s up to Norman’s dirty dozen to fix this.

There is a line between contentious and consequential, and the Ryder Cup has overstepped that boundary in the past. Nobody wants that, not the misplaced aggression of Kiawah or the misguided esprit de corps of Brookline.

But the fire of Valhalla, the emotion of the K Club, the competitive pitch of Brookline, that would transform the Presidents Cup from biennial blowout to must-see title bout.

“It’s important that the matches are very competitive and I have no reason why they are not other than the fact that maybe because we get to play this format every year,” said Justin Leonard, a veteran of seven Ryder and Presidents Cups. “Greg Norman’s job is probably a little more difficult in bringing those guys together and only playing the format every two years.”

It took Paul Azinger’s passion and creativity to break the United States out of a similar Ryder Cup cycle last year, but the problem is Norman is no Azinger. The Shark arrives in San Fran the author of a pair of dubious picks, a doomed marriage and a shoulder on the DL.

That’s not to say the International side is without heroes or hope, but unless Els worked in an impromptu putting lesson with Dave Stockton since the Tour Championship or the Victorian Institute of Sport has found a way to clone Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby the eighth Presidents Cup will be a title bout sans the bout.

A large sign in San Francisco Airport urged travelers to get their flu shots. Norman must have eyed the sign with interest. If only the cure for the International side’s woes came in a needle. Instead, he’ll just walk on them for the next four days, and we’ll all hope for the best.

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.”

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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.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm