Reasons to Roar

By Rex HoggardApril 11, 2010, 5:07 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Phil Mickelson made up six shots in three holes, Tiger Woods made up three in three holes, and the golf gods seem to be making it up as they go along.

With all due respect to the golfing greats who put on a show on a postcard perfect spring afternoon, the green jackets get the nod for turning up the volume. Mickelson may get credit for ripping Saturday’s lid off with an eagle-eagle-birdie tear through Nos. 13, 14 and 15, while Woods continued to thumb his nose at karma with a birdie trifecta beginning at the 13th, but it is the powers that be that control this tempo.

The Masters stayed on topic thanks to some benign back-nine pin positions and not a breath of wind as Mickelson, Woods, Lee Westwood, et al took the lead.

Lee Westwood
Lee Westwood wasn't to be outdone Saturday and grabbed the solo lead. (Getty Images)
“One of those great days in golf,” said Westwood, the leader by one at the greatest show on grass.

The Englishman is at 12 under after a 68 on Super Saturday, followed in order by Mickelson (67) a shot back, Woods (70) and K.J. Choi (70) four clear and Fred Couples (68) keeping time at 7 under.

Westwood may have the lead, but Mickelson cornered the market on the most inspiring supporting cast member. With his entire family – including his wife, Amy, who is still recovering from breast cancer – in Augusta, Lefty put on a show.

Mickelson’s 5-under card matches that inspiring closing-round 67 on Sunday last year and was the stuff that rattles pines.

For most of a calm afternoon it was the Brits and Tiger show. Westwood continued to put distance between himself and another major heartbreak while Woods’ front-nine charge was stalled with bogeys at Nos. 6 and 7. By the turn Westwood was four clear of the field and had, for the second time this week, taken down playing partner Ian Poulter in nine holes.

But as he stepped to the 12th tee Mickelson’s second shot at the 14th landed left of the hole and spun in for a bookend eagle to move him to 11 under and one back. Less than five minutes later Westwood tapped in his bogey and Lefty had at least a share of his first lead since last year’s WGC-HSBC Champions.

Mickelson famously attempted to win a major with no drivers in his bag, a WGC with two drivers in his bag and, now, a Masters with no expectations. Funny how that works. A few weeks of pedestrian play, a reality check waiting at home and next thing you know your third green jacket is yours to lose.

“This is the first week (his family) have travelled in 11 months. It's really fun having them here, and it takes a lot of the heartache away, and it's been great,” Mickelson said.

Couples, playing in the group ahead of Mickelson, couldn’t resist giving Lefty some grief after his second consecutive eagle.

“I wanted the golf ball he holed out with at 14, but he couldn’t hear me,” Couples said. “I chipped in on the next hole and told him he could have mine.”

But then Boom Boom was much more than a bystander. He rebounded from a sloppy second round that seemed to put an early end to his late-in-life dreams of a second green jacket with a 68 but was gutted to learn, unlike his Champions Tour haven, they play 72 on the big tour.

The good news, Couples is striking the ball like he did in his 40s. Bad news, he’s putting like he did in his 40s. The reluctant senior made nothing and bogeyed the last for the second consecutive day, but sounded nothing like a man headed for a ceremonial role.

“I don’t feel 50 playing golf,” Couples said. “If I can get loose I can go to the first tee and pound a drive.”

As for Woods, his reintroduction remains on script. Although he’s nowhere near as adept at running down major championships as he is when he’s playing from the front of the pack, his game has looked largely solid and if his putting responds the way the patrons have this week his personal life may become a footnote to his professional life for the first time since Nov. 27.

“Normally you're not going to have four great days. I've played golf long enough where I've never had four great rounds in a row,” Woods said. “One day is always going to be your off day, and on your off day if you can keep it under par it's always a good sign, and I did that today.”

And, to be honest, the sight of Westwood, who is piling up Grand Slam near-misses at an alarming rate in recent years, at the front of the line likely doesn’t inspire much fear in the world No. 1. The Englishman doesn’t seem to have history on his side either considering Nick Faldo was the last player from England to be fitted for a green jacket in 1996.

But then Westwood looked unflappable on his 54th hole, chipping to 8 feet and rolling in his par save for what amounts to a statistical dead-heat, give or take a few style points.

On Saturday all of England stopped to watch the Grand National – think Kentucky Derby sans mint juleps – which was won by a pony called “Don’t push it.” On Sunday, England’s biggest horse will take on his counterpart from the United States, and if the powers that be hold to form, it promises to be anything but a two-horse race. 
Getty Images

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.”