Spieth back at The Open one year after near miss

By Rex HoggardJuly 11, 2016, 7:35 pm

Criticism and crushing pressure, that was the menu for Jordan Spieth when he arrived in Scotland for last year’s Open.

The 21-year-old “golden child” was poised to make history after having won the first two legs of the single-season modern Grand Slam. History wasn’t on his side – only one player, Ben Hogan in 1953, had pulled off the modern Triple Crown (The Hawk wasn’t able to play the PGA because it was held the same week as The Open) – and Spieth downplayed the possibility, keeping things predictably simple “[we’re] trying to get into contention and hopefully close out another tournament.”

Adding to the buzz was Spieth’s decision to play the John Deere Classic the week before The Open, a move some said wasn’t in his best interest considering the potentially historic nature of the 144th edition of the game’s oldest championship.

He quieted that criticism by winning at TPC Deere Run in a playoff and found unexpected solace on the shores of the Firth of Forth.

“Over there it’s easier to shut off noise,” Spieth told Golf Channel. “You’re not on your phone as much. It’s six hours later than central time, which kind of helps because you’re not seeing or hearing what’s going on. Which I think helps because going for a third major in a row there was certainly a lot on the table.”

The noise was still there - fed by pre-tournament news that Rory McIlroy would miss The Open because of an ankle injury - and when he opened the week with a 67 which left him two strokes off the lead, the drumbeat grew increasingly louder.

A second-round 72, a byproduct of a weather-delayed, disjointed effort that wasn’t completed until Saturday afternoon following a 10 1/2-hour wind delay, dropped Spieth five strokes behind pacesetter Dustin Johnson.

“I played with Dustin the first two rounds and thought, man, there’s nobody beating him this week,” Spieth said. “He was just absolutely tearing it up.”

Johnson struggled in Round 3, a common theme in the bomber’s history until last month’s U.S. Open, and Spieth began the final round a stroke off the lead following a 66.

It was, despite all of the pressure and pre-tournament hype, exactly as Spieth had planned it.

“I didn’t really feel like there was that much pressure that week. We were playing great, let’s go in and get ourselves into a spot here,” Spieth said. “We worked our way into contention and had control of the golf tournament.”



It’s the champion’s cliché. Playing for trophies may be the ultimate goal, but given the uncertainties of competition, particularly at a place like the Old Course where every player is a single unsavory bounce away from disaster, the best one can hope for is a chance late in the final round.

Following a front-nine 34 on the downwind run, he immediately added a birdie at the 10th hole to move within a stroke of the lead at 14 under.

By the time he arrived at the par-4 16th hole, which played the second hardest during last year’s championship, the plan was still intact.

“I remember getting to 16 and we knew where we were on the board and telling [caddie Michael Greller], we can still birdie 18 so let’s go ahead and be smart here, hit two greens in regulation and scrap together a couple of pars and birdie the last hole and if it’s not enough it could be good enough for a playoff,” Spieth said.

He did one better at No. 16, rolling in a twisting birdie putt to move to 15 under and tied for the lead.

“I had this long putt, I can see it right now. It was from the left side of the green to the right side and they had this little pin in this corner and it went up, then it flatten out and then back down,” said Spieth, who added the putt was similar to the one he made at No. 16 to win the U.S. Open a month earlier.

“I was at an all-time high and I was thinking let’s par 17 and birdie 18 to win The Open.”

In retrospect, Spieth concedes he played the 17th hole too conservative, hitting his drive down the left fairway to avoid the out of bounds that runs down the right of the Road Hole.

His 235-yard approach to an exacting green missed wide and he wasn’t able to convert his par attempt. Although he still had the 18th hole to play, the bogey at No. 17, even a year removed, was a momentum changer.

“That thought of, OK, let’s par 17 and birdie 18 and give ourselves a chance to win in the town of St. Andrews it just kind of got taken away,” he admitted.

At the iconic finisher Spieth played his drive too far left and from an awkward angle found the Valley of Sin in front of the green. Only Costantino Rocca makes birdie from there to win The Open.

“That was a draining feeling once that putt missed,” Spieth said of his birdie attempt that drifted past the hole to leave him a stroke outside of a playoff between Zach Johnson, Marc Leishman and Louis Oothuizen.

Greller was gutted, unable to speak with reporters in the moments afterward; while Spieth seemed to find calm in his accomplishments, if not another major title.

He was 2-for-3 on the Grand Slam board for the season and few rolls shy of possibly joining Hogan as the only modern Triple Crown winner.

“I wasn’t overly upset, we’d won the first two majors,” Spieth said. “It wasn’t like I was trying to win my first one, but you don’t get that many chances to win major championships and that’s what we practiced for.”

Spieth went into player dinning, had lunch, had a beer and watched the playoff, which was won by Johnson, who he calls a “bit of a mentor.”

He walked back out to the 18th green to congratulate his friend and took a moment to gaze down the 18th fairway, to what could have been.

“It was tough because I wanted to be a part of that playoff,” he said.

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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.”