You Cant Get There from Here

By Rex HoggardJanuary 26, 2011, 5:38 am

Farmers Insurance OpenSAN DIEGO – Blame it on HDTV, or particular viewers with too much free time. Castigate Camilo Villegas and Padraig Harrington for a lack of situational awareness. Even condemn the convoluted Rules of Golf.

Whatever gets you through the cold winter nights. But know this about Rule 6-6.d, golf’s powers that be have dissected this particular item ad nauseam and come to a simple yet unmistakable conclusion – it may be broke, but it’s unfixable.

“I bet it goes back 100 years,” sighed Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s senior director of rules and competitions.

A few years back Davis and the USGA, which governs the game in the United States and Mexico, was asked by the PGA Tour to review the rule that cost Villegas an “official” paycheck at the season opener in Hawaii and Harrington a shot at victory at last week’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on the European Tour.

Both players had signed their scorecards only to find out much later that a viewer had called in, or texted or tweeted, a violation. For signing an incorrect card both players were disqualified and common sense was given a standing “10 count.”

Davis’ answer to the Tour was the same then that it is now – you can’t get there from here. At least not without opening a Pandora’s Box of unforeseen, and seen, problems.

“The whole reason the (Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which governs the game everywhere else in the world) and USGA have rejected it is there are too many ramifications if you do that,” Davis said.

“If you gave Camilo a four-stroke penalty (instead of an early exit) the problem with that is you may all of a sudden mess up a cut. It could be the U.S. Amateur and you just played 36 holes of stroke play and your entire bracket (for match play) could get messed up. It would be illogical to make a change.”

That answer, however, is no longer good enough for the PGA Tour. On Tuesday at Torrey Pines commissioner Tim Finchem said he planned to meet with the USGA’s executive committee late next week to “rearticulate our concerns,” which is Tour-speak for “pretty please.”

“We felt that perhaps the penalty was out of sync with the infraction,” Finchem said. “There needs to be some common sense here.”

On this the commish has popular opinion and the vast majority of his players on his side. If the Villegas DQ drew discontent from the golf world the Harrington ruling last week prompted nothing short of indignation from golf-dom.

When asked if, at the least, there should be a statute of limitations on late-to-the-dance infractions, either called in from middle America or via a fellow competitor, that would cost a guilty player an additional two strokes or so but allow them to continue playing, Rocco Mediate jumped, “Oh yeah, there’s got to be something.”

But Finchem can “rearticulate” until East Lake thaws out, Davis – as thoughtful and fair-minded as they come – was rather clear on this.

“If you ask people who really know the rules and understand the ramifications they understand why the R&A and USGA don’t want to change it,” Davis said.

Rough translation: if the Tour is so intent on change then they should have at it. They’ve done it before, in fact. The grooves in the irons the play-for-pay set will use at this week’s Farmers Insurance Open are different than what will be used in next week’s men’s club shotgun at Torrey Pines.

But a wholesale bifurcation of the rules is viewed in Tour circles as a last resort, an Armageddon option that carries its own set of unforeseen problems. More so than any other sport golf clings to the notion that the game you see played on Tour Sundays is the same that will be played at Everytown, USA, Municipal on Monday.

“We have that option,” Finchem said when asked about the possibility of a local rule that would save future Villegases and Harringtons from a rule book death sentence. “However, we think it’s important to the sport to maintain a consistent set of rules throughout. Right now we are not even thinking about that.”

All of which means that Finchem is at an impasse, and as politically savvy as the former Washington, D.C., lobbyist may be the USGA and R&A have some 100 years of “rearticulating” that proves you can’t get there from here.

Late-to-the-dance call-ins and unfortunate disqualifications have been a part of the game since golf went to the little screen, and HD clarity only promises to embolden armchair rules officials in the future. But if Finchem & Co. want change they may have to go it alone.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.