Stepping in the Right Direction

By Rex HoggardAugust 13, 2010, 4:21 am
2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – At this juncture in the proceedings it is about baby steps, more so than breakthroughs.

The 1-under 71 will not have many in the field of 156 looking over their shoulders, but when your last competitive round was a 77, the worst final-card of your career, and the calendar is sneaking up on a year since your last “W,” close is always better than clutching.

It is a reality that would explain Tiger Woods’ borderline buoyant demeanor following his opening round at the 92nd PGA Championship. Or maybe it was a pairing with Y.E. Yang and Vijay Singh that featured little chit-chat. Either way Woods seemed more at ease on the course than he has been in some time.

“Everything is better,” Woods said of his game which just four days earlier seemed in need of an overhaul on a Firestone Country Club course that has been every bit the friendly confines for Woods.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods had four birdies and three bogeys in Round 1. (Getty Images)
On paper Woods’ optimism was far from misplaced.

For the day he hit eight of 12 fairways, 12 of 18 greens in regulation and needed just 28 putts. Not bad for a guy who spent most of last Sunday looking like he needed a mulligan, or a handicap index.

Compared with his 33-putt 77 at Firestone, Thursday’s effort at Whistling Straits was a clinic, particularly for a player who said his “speed” this year had been “awful.”

For all the focus on Sean Foley, the Orlando, Fla.-based swing coach who appears poised to assume the duties vacated by Hank Haney earlier this year, it was the world No. 1’s putting that seemed to fuel a quiet confidence on a slow-starting breezy day along the Firth of Michigan.

Woods opened his delayed first round with four consecutive one-putts, equaling the number of one-putts he had for all 18 holes last Sunday, made the turn at 2 under and weathered a wayward phase late in the round to finish just three shots off the lead held by Bubba Watson and Francesco Molinari.

If last week’s opening 74 at Firestone was Venus, his 71 on Thursday at the PGA was Mars minus the mental miscues.

“I felt like I had pretty good control of my trajectory, which was good, especially with the wind,” said Woods before heading to the range to work with Foley on a swing that has been on a crash course correction this week.

Not that Woods’ ballstriking was textbook, but then the old Tiger Woods never really was.

At the 12th hole, his third of the day, Woods’ tee shot airmailed the green to an impossible lie in the faux fescue. He hacked out and calmly rolled in his 8-footer for par. At the fifth hole he smothered his tee shot left, took a drop and got up-and-down from 100 yards. The year 2000 called; they want their Eldrick back.

Woods has won a healthy number of those Hall of Fame titles with something less than his “A” game, but he was always in the game because there was no better clutch putter and on Thursday Woods’ putter, which was benched temporarily at the Open Championship, showed real signs of life.

Foley can fix the swing. Maybe he already has, but only Woods can right whatever is wrong with his putter, be it mental, mechanical or a combination of the two.

On Tuesday Woods talked about struggling mightily with the speed of his putts this year, but ShotLink doesn’t measure such esoteric concepts. The best it can do is something called approach putt performance, which has Woods’ average lag putt coming to within 2 feet, 4 inches, or 115th on Tour.

In practice on Thursday Woods was able to roll in birdie putts of 8 feet (Nos. 10, 11 and 13) and 9 feet (No. 9), and a host of other attempts that scared the hole but never dropped.

“I felt so much more comfortable over (my putts),” Woods said. “I got my lines back. I got everything lined up where I could release the blade, toe is moving again, which is great. It felt good.”

Whether Woods’ improved ballstriking begot a suddenly calm putter or vice versa doesn’t really matter. Not at this point and not to the man who has gone seven majors without a victory, the third-longest Grand Slam drought of his career.

From the outset, Glory’s Last Shot had a last gasp feel to it for Woods. One final go to get off the Grand Slam schnied and avoid going two years without winning a major for just the second time of his career.

On Thursday, Torrey Pines didn’t seem so far away. There is a spring that has suddenly inched its way back into his step, if not his swing. If Foley really can work this fast we should get his opinion on deflation. And if Woods can keep making progress with his putter one has to believe anything is possible.

For now, however, it’s all about baby steps.
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.”