Reed, Fowler battling for Barclays, Ryder berths

By Will GrayAugust 27, 2016, 11:41 pm

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – It’s the type of scenario that should catch the attention of any American golf fan.

Two weeks removed from representing the U.S. in the Olympics, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed now find themselves in the final group at The Barclays with another chance to don the red, white and blue at stake. To add a little flavor, the setting happens to be Bethpage Black – a former U.S. Open and future Ryder Cup venue.

Perhaps the only thing missing is a little patriotic face paint.

Sunday’s finale on the Black Course is shaping up like a Ryder Cup primer. Both Reed and Fowler entered the week with their status for Hazeltine somewhat uncertain, but both have more than risen to the occasion in the final week of automatic qualification.

For Fowler, the task was steep. Entering at No. 12 in the standings and with only one top-10 finish in his last nine starts, he needed to find something at the buzzer after a last-ditch detour to the Wyndham Championship didn’t pan out as hoped. But just as he responded when his back was against the wall last year at TPC Sawgrass and this year in Abu Dhabi, Fowler has delivered the goods through 54 holes.

He holds a one-shot lead over Reed, an advantage largely built by a stellar short game. Fowler leads the field this week in scrambling, and despite three trips around one of the most brutish layouts the PGA Tour has to offer, his lone dropped shot stems from a 4-foot putt that horseshoed back in his face during the opening round.

“It’s a little bit of the putter starting to show up a bit. I’ve always been a good putter,” Fowler said after a third-round 68. “To have a few putts go in, to be able to get up and down for par and saving all those shots to keep momentum going, it makes all the difference.”

Fowler has now gone 45 straight holes without a bogey – an impressive feat on your local muni, let alone a major-caliber venue. It puts him in great position for a potential captain’s pick from Davis Love III, but Fowler hopes to make that option a moot point with his play during the final round.


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“I think it’s pretty simple. We’ve just got to go take care of business tomorrow,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in this position, but we have a pretty good track record of in the past year or so since the Players win. Looking forward to it.”

For Reed, things weren’t quite as sharp. After starting the day with a two-shot cushion, he struggled to find a groove and bogeyed three of his first six holes. But he managed to keep the round on track, playing his final 12 holes in 2 under to give himself a spot in the tournament’s final pairing alongside Fowler.

“It was one of those days that I hit no fairways,” he said. “Every driver I seemed to hit was in the right rough or right bunkers, and I just felt like I had to hack out of the rough all day.”

Reed entered the week at No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after this week automatically qualifying for Hazeltine. While Fowler still has work to do to punch his ticket, Reed now appears likely to make the team on merit.

Although Reed would relish an opportunity to rekindle some of the Ryder Cup magic of two years ago, his main focus this week is on snapping a victory drought that extends back to the 2015 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

“I’m ready. I’ve been ready, felt like all year. I need to put four rounds together,” he said. “To only be one back, I feel like I’m in great position. I’m in the final group tomorrow. Go in and put some pressure on Rickie, and hopefully both of us kind of separate ourselves on the back and play some good golf.”

While the tournament is hardly a two-man race on a course as treacherous as Bethpage – especially with former world No. 1 Adam Scott lurking just two shots off the pace – all eyes will be focused on the all-American duo in the anchor pairing.

“We’re going to have some fun,” Fowler said. “I saw him on the putting green before I left the tee since he was playing behind me. Told him to have a good one and let’s go get in the final group tomorrow. We’ve done that, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Fowler and Reed have been playing against each other for more than a decade, dating back to their earliest meetings in junior golf. But more recently, they’ve become two of the more prominent faces of American golf.

They’re bold, they’re confident and they embody the culture change needed to kick-start a U.S. side that's lost six of the last seven Ryder Cups.

While only one can claim the trophy, both men could very well leave New York with updated travel plans to Hazeltine. It should be a memorable battle on an iconic venue, and one whose biggest winner could turn out to be the old red, white and blue.

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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.”