PGA Tour players on Rules decision: It's a start

By Ryan LavnerApril 25, 2017, 9:00 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Nothing riles up professional golfers quite like a rules controversy, a point that was reinforced Tuesday, when the move to limit video evidence was met mostly with frustration because larger, more pressing issues remain.

The USGA and R&A have vowed to take a “deeper evaluation” of the issues of viewer call-ins and scorecard penalties, and that’s a good thing, because PGA Tour players are impatiently waiting for action.

“Going forward, I hope they just clarify if it’s a yes or a no, and you don’t have to have somebody call in or go to a high-def TV to get an answer,” Steve Stricker said. “I hope that’s what comes from all of this, that there’s a clear-cut answer: ‘This is what you do and you go forward.’ It shouldn’t be that hard.”

That viewers at home can influence the outcome of an event never has sat well with players and even some fans. After all, how many calls would the NFL, NBA or MLB receive for a blown call during a game? But those sports are confined to a small space, with time restraints and officials monitoring the action – a markedly different arena than professional golf, which is nonstop action played out acres of land for 12 hours a day with roving officials on-site. Frustratingly, there is no easy solution.

Yes, armchair officials are protecting the field by spotting a potential infringement on TV. But maybe only a dozen players a day are shown on the broadcast. It’s not a level playing field … and yet, failing to penalize a player for an obvious infraction would cast a dark cloud over the event.

More clear-cut, at least according to the players, is how the governing bodies should handle the post-round scorecard penalties, like the one Lexi Thompson received at the ANA Inspiration. Most agree that Thompson should have received a two-shot penalty for playing from an incorrect spot – replays show she clearly marked her 1-foot putt, picked up her ball and placed it in a different position – but what continues to frustrate Tour players is that she was assessed another two-shot penalty, for signing an incorrect scorecard, after officials were made aware of the infraction a day later.

“You penalized her the two shots, but they never gave her an opportunity to sign for the new card,” Stricker said. “She signed for a correct card at the time. Why would you penalize her again when she had no idea that she was even being penalized? Once the round is in the books, and signed, we’re over it. We should be moving forward. What other sport do you go back and change the outcome the day after?”

The USGA and R&A have already softened their stance on scorecard penalties. Under the old rules, Thompson, who held a two-shot lead on the back nine, would have been disqualified on the spot. At least at the ANA she still had a chance to win.

The problem that the USGA and R&A have yet to confront is that a scorecard is archaic in 2017. Cards were necessary decades ago, when a threesome would head out for five hours and they needed to report how everyone in the group fared. The players themselves were ShotLink – the way to ensure that all of the accounting was right. But that’s not the case anymore. Scorers walk with each group, and there is a mountain of data with scores and yardages.

“Any penalty relative to the scorecard is complete [nonsense],” Geoff Ogilvy said. “We’re not accountants. We can still do a card, but the goal of golf is to find the best golfer.”

So, yes, some issues, some big issues, remain unresolved. But players also applauded the USGA and R&A for the swift response to the increasingly heated debate over the use of TV replay.

Sparing players from being penalized because the infraction wasn’t noticeable with the naked eye or because they used “reasonable judgment” was a good start.

Ogilvy said it signifies a “new strategy” for the governing bodies, which traditionally changed the rules every four years. Less than six months after Dustin Johnson’s controversial penalty at the U.S. Open, the Rules of Golf were amended to include a local rule that would waive the one-shot penalty if a ball moved on the green by accident.

“The idea that they’re going to see something that is unfair or unjust and not right and quickly change it is really how the rules should be changed,” Ogilvy said. “That’s how life works. You see something that doesn’t work, you change it and you go on. That’s how stuff evolves forward.

“For years, it’s been, 'No, we only write rules every four years,' and they sit around a table and they drink gin and tonics and they decide this is how golf is supposed to be without using any real-world examples. Changing it pretty quickly, while it’s fresh in everybody’s mind, that’s the process I like. If that was always the process, this stuff would happen a lot less often. It would have been corrected years ago.”

It’s reasonable to think that, after “deeper evaluation,” even more changes will be implemented before the Jan. 1, 2019 unveiling of the new rulebook.

In the past 10 months alone, there have been three high-profile incidents in the majors that have prompted change.

And there will continue to be more.

Golf is a strange game. There are a million rules. Officials can’t predict every possible scenario. But the game is evolving.

“Golf has gotten unlucky these past couple of years that there were situations with prominent players in the final rounds of majors,” Ogilvy said, “but maybe that’s just the universe saying, Look, you’ve got to change the way you do this. This is a step in the right direction.”

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x