Norman breaks down Internationals' loss

By Rex HoggardNovember 21, 2011, 12:59 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – In the rush to congratulate and console late Sunday at Royal Melbourne Greg Norman was asked if he would submit a review of his two turns as the International team captain in the coming weeks.

“I'm going to give you two right now so I don't forget,” Norman informed the PGA Tour minion.

There is no secret to the International side’s swoon in this biennial bout that has now tipped toward the Americans in seven of nine meetings. The rest of the world can’t play foursome golf. Well, they can, just not well.

In nine matches the U.S. has won 14 and tied one of the 18 foursome sessions, has outscored the Internationals 25 ½ to 7 ½ in foursomes in the last three Presidents Cups and nearly swept this week’s play, losing only two of the 11 games. Considering the four-point final margin of victory for the United States one doesn’t need to be clairvoyant to figure out what was atop the “Shark’s” postgame to-do list.

The last seven Presidents Cups began with a foursome session, which – given the Internationals' pedestrian play in the format – would explain why they regularly have to play catch-up on the weekend.

“We do get our cage rattled a little bit in the foursome match. And it does rattle us because we don't like getting beaten; so maybe just getting our confidence level up will help,” said Norman, who will suggest the “host nation” decide if the event begins with a foursome or fourball session, like the Ryder Cup.

Ernie Els, a captain-in-waiting, echoed Norman’s thoughts on Sunday: “I think we are so bad at it . . . why don't we start with something different, you know? Let's start with fourball matches, maybe that's the answer.”

Hoggard: Couples' quirks worked

Hoggard: Grading players, captains

No, it’s not an answer. It’s just swapping problem solving for procrastination. Pushing the start of foursome play until Day 2 will likely only delay the inevitable.

The Internationals' problems in alternate shot seem to be twofold. Many of the U.S. players are exposed to the format each year at the Ryder and Presidents Cups, while the Internationals get just one shot at it every two calendars.

Diversity, of all things, is the other issue for the Internationals. Last week Norman’s team played under four flags. Assistant captain Frank Nobilo would like to see that change to a single standard in future Cups.

“I wish we didn’t put the flags in the program, “ Nobilo said. “You’d like to get each one of the 12 feeling like part of the 12, that’s why you don’t really want to just put two Korean players to the side, two Australians or whatever. That’s something that we’ve always had to deal with.”

In a snapshot the Internationals' plight could be summed up as the team took to the podium for the final press conference of the week late Sunday, complete with three different interpreters, whereas the U.S. side needed just a single translator for those perplexed by Bubba Watson’s deep Southern drawl.

“The (Ryder Cup) expanded to be competitive. Maybe the (Presidents Cup) should shrink,” 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger tweeted only half jokingly.

For many reasons Norman’s second loss as a captain was worse. This time he and his assistants thought they had an answer to the foursome enigma. This time his pairings and players were ready, but the result remained unchanged.

Even more concerning is the problem seems to be genetic, passing from the previous generation to the newcomers. Adam Scott is the only active player with a winning record in alternate shot (5-4-1), while Geoff Ogilvy, a Cup staple and the emotional heart of the International side, is a confounding 0-4-1.

By contrast, the Internationals have a 10-4-4 advantage in fourball play and have won or tied the singles session on four occasions.

Some have suggested adding another biennial match-play team event to the schedule – perhaps the Northern Hemisphere versus the Southern – that would be played in even years and give the Internationals some much-needed foursome experience.

Norman also plans to suggest the Tour expand the number of wild-card picks an International captain has from two to four, which, in theory, would give him more flexibility to create favorable matchups.

“We just really cannot handle ourselves in the foursome format,” Norman said. “(Nobilo) and I from 2009 to now have thought about it long and hard. I truly believe it's the comfort level of the players who have played or haven't played it. When you have played in alternate shot, when you have played with somebody who has not played alternate shot, you can actually hold them by the hand and take them through the process a little bit easier.”

Whatever is on the “Shark’s” wish list, what is clear after last week’s painful foursomes play is that there are no silver bullets for the Internationals. Norman’s alternate-shot lineup was his best hand, and the Americans handed him another loss.

“The Ryder Cup started in 1927; the first 24 times it was played Great Britain and Ireland only won (three times). I think our team is very competitive and I think we’re closer than what they were,” he said. “We’re learning it.”

There’s little doubt the lessons continue, or that some are more painful than others.

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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.”