Policing the Game

By Rex HoggardMarch 13, 2011, 2:43 am

WGC-Cadillac ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. – These are the facts.

Peter Hanson’s approach shot to the famed 18th green at Doral wedged itself between the rocks ringing the water hazard and the deep blue, leaving the Swedish half of the Hanson Brothers no choice but to remove his right shoe and sock and try a watery whack.

As he was leaving the hazard Hanson handed his wedge to his caddie, Mark Sherwood, who accidently let the club brush the grass within the hazard, a possible violation of the Rules of Golf.

Thirty minutes later outside the scoring trailer Hanson was mulling his rule options.

“I’m not sure what the rule is so they are looking at the tape,” Hanson said. “If it touches the grass it is not the same thing as grounding the club.”

Officials who reviewed the footage found it to be inconclusive and Hanson’s caddie said he did not ground the club, which is defined in the rules as allowing the weight of the club to be supported by the ground.

Eventually he signed for a bogey-5, not a double bogey that would have come with a penalty, but the event underscores why the Rules of Golf work, at least at the highest levels.

If modern technology and HD hindsight fall short of being definitive, the decision is left to the player, and know this about professional golfers: they will avoid even a whiff of impropriety like a downhill 5 footer for par at Augusta National.

“This guy is as honest as the day is long,” said PGA Tour rules official Steve Rintoul. “And the thing is this is the third situation this week where a player has called a possible infraction on himself, that’s something.”

Camilo Villegas
Camilo Villegas' rules mishap early in 2011 has players policing themselves more closely. (Getty Images)

Note to Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s new chief: we know you are dutifully trying to find a fix to the rules snafu that landed Camilo Villegas and Padraig Harrington early exist this season, but before you throw the crybabies out with the water hazard, consider your audience.

Cheating is the one word that doesn’t wash off in golf, which is why Hanson went to such extremes to protect his name as well as the integrity of the event. What modern technology couldn’t detect, the Swede wanted to clarify.

Just as Jim Furyk wanted to be sure he’d been given the proper advice on the same 18th hole when he completed his first round Friday morning. Furyk’s third shot had sailed into the grandstands adjacent the green and he was informed by a rules official he could drop a new ball.

“If the ball is not easily retrievable we’re not going to cut down the stands to get it,” Rintoul said. “We allowed him to substitute the ball, but after the round he just wanted to be sure. He was thinking he wasn’t allowed to drop a new ball.”

In the end Furyk’s original ruling was found to be correct, although that did little to dull the sting of a closing double bogey-6.

On Friday Graeme McDowell had a similar rules stymie when his ball moved on the ninth green while he was putting it.

“(Playing partner Phil Mickelson) was right beside me when I did it and I mentioned to him,” McDowell said. “I kind of thought if you continued your stroke you were OK, and Phil kind of thought the same thing . . . but it was just kind of one of those niggling things.”

McDowell was assessed a one-stroke penalty since “he’d already grounded his club,” Rintoul said. The penalty was accepted, without protest, because that’s what golfers do.

When in doubt, do what’s best, even if that means adding a few when there has clearly been no competitive advantage gained and no quantifiable harm done. What would be considered laughable in a court of law is the law on the golf course – as it should be.

“Just one of those things unfortunately,” McDowell said. “You know, got to get those doubts out of your mind.”

Villegas and Harrington’s disqualifications earlier this year for signing incorrect scorecards have caused a great amount of handwringing. The punishment, opponents claim, doesn’t fit the crime, and maybe the Rules of Golf could use a 21st Century nip/tuck.

But if the actions of Hanson & Co. this week at Doral have taught us anything it is that the players, not officials or overzealous viewers at home with too much free time, will police themselves. They always have.


Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard
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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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