PGA Tour makes the right call in allowing for Harman

By Rex HoggardMay 10, 2012, 5:46 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – For a game that has been guided for centuries by the simple, unwavering tenets of rules we sure have gotten willy-nilly of late, and maybe that’s not a bad thing.

On Wednesday PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem surprised many when he acknowledged that the circuit ignores its own policy and continues to allow a co-sanctioned event at Augusta National despite its all-male membership.

A day later the Tour again colored outside the lines to sidestep one of the most embarrassing episodes in pro golf history since Roberto De Vicenzo mixed up his math and lost a Masters.

It was a day that began at 7 a.m. for Brian Harman, an up-and-coming Tour rookie and this week’s first alternate into The Players Championship. After hitting some warm-up shots on TPC Sawgrass’ practice tee Harman informed Tour officials he’d be in the clubhouse if someone withdrew.

PGA Tour's statement regarding the Harman-Points controversy

Not long after that D.A. Points brushed past your correspondent on his way to the fitness trailer looking for treatment for a sore back. Wishing for the best, Points struggled to the first tee but by the time he arrived for his 8:39 a.m. tee time he realized he couldn’t play.

“You could tell something was wrong. He was trying to swing, but it wasn’t pretty, said Robert Garrigus, who was in Points' group. “I told him if he couldn’t play he should withdraw and let someone else in.”

What transpired was something of an imperfect storm, complicated by time and the space between TPC’s first tee and its sprawling clubhouse. Some have suggested Points was too slow to notify officials of his WD, although officials did say the veteran did everything within the rules, but consider his Thursday plight.

“He was fine and about 25 minutes before his tee time he tweaked it. He didn’t think it was going to be an issue,” said Brad Buffoni, Points’ manager with Wasserman Media Group. “He was going through his full pre-tournament routine and that’s when he tweaked it.

“He takes a couple of practice swings and realizes he has no chance. Rather than hit the shot and have the alternate have no chance to be in the field he tells them he’s going to withdraw. He’s thinking of getting someone in the field.”

This is where it gets complicated.

When a player withdraws before teeing off for his first round officials normally scramble to replace him in the field with the next available alternate, but Harman was never notified, at least not until it was too late.

“Very unusual situation,” said Mark Russell, the Tour’s vice president of rules and competition. “In my 31 years I never remember a player withdrawing right before he was supposed to tee off.”

By the time officials learned of Points’ exit his group was on the second hole and the empty spot, Harman’s spot, remained unfilled.

According to Tour rules, if the next available alternate isn’t around officials move down the list – in this case to Greg Owen, who was at his home in Orlando, Fla. – until there are no more alternates. At that point the alternate list is discarded and if someone withdraws they are not replaced.

But Tour officials had a problem, Harman had been available, but the logistics of Points’ withdrawal conspired against him.

As Harman stood on the practice tee warming up for a tee time that might never materialize he couldn’t help but laugh at the strange turn of events.

“I thought I was in the field twice this week,” he smiled, pointing out that when Fred Couples withdrew earlier this week he initially thought he was in until officials informed him that because Couples was in the field via his victory at the Senior Players Championship the spot would not be replaced.

In what can only be described as a victory of reason, the Tour concluded, after lengthy discussions with the U.S. Golf Association, that “Brian Harman had done everything we asked him to do,” Russell said.

In a break from protocol, if not reason, officials decided to give the rookie a spot in The Players field, sending him out alone at 12:20 p.m. for Round 1 and on Friday he will play with Ryan Moore and Bud Cauley in the 8:50 a.m. group following Paul Casey’s withdrawal midway through his opening round.

“This is not a shuttle launch,” said Mac Barnhardt, Harman’s manager with Crown Sports Management. “They made the right call. I was in contact with (Tour official) Ross Berlin who was working on Brian’s behalf. They were going to protect their member at all cost.”

Non-golfers will consider the entire affair ridiculous. Of course the Tour squeezed Harman into an unused tee time because it was the right thing to do, correct? But then golf doesn’t exactly have the market cornered on reason.

“I had no idea what was going to happen. I just tried to put it out of my mind. If I get in great if not Dad was putting the boat in the water so I was going to have a good day regardless,” Harman said following his first-round 73. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shook up by what happened.”

The Rules of Golf are riddled with items that exceed the boundaries of what, in any other sport, would be considered fair play. Perhaps it is part of what makes golf special, but in Harman’s case there was nothing to be gained by a dogmatic adherence to the rules.

A society prone to damage control may not like it, but this was nothing more than a crime without culpability, just victims; and the Tour made the right call regardless of the letter of the law.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

Getty Images

Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

Getty Images

Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.