Woods, McIlroy could headline Frys.com in 2015

By Will GrayOctober 13, 2014, 6:00 pm

NAPA, Calif. – With a new venue and a new tournament host, the Frys.com Open boasted one of the strongest fields of its eight-year history.

Thanks to some lingering paperwork, there’s reason to expect an even stronger gathering next year.

This year marked the Tour’s return to Silverado Resort & Spa for the first time since 1980. The field included Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood and Hunter Mahan, all of whom made a detour to wine country on the heels of the Ryder Cup in order to fulfill a make-good tied to their appearance in an unofficial event in 2012.

The trio was among eight players who competed in a match-play exhibition in Turkey two years ago, an event played opposite the Frys.com Open and was not sanctioned by either the PGA or European tours.

The players signed releases to participate in the event, and while PGA Tour officials declined to comment on the situation, Frys.com Open president Duke Butler explained that he signed off on the arrangement with a caveat.

“We agreed not to block the releases of those eight players to play in a conflicting event,” Butler told GolfChannel.com on Sunday. “In exchange, those eight players agreed to play in the Frys.com Open at least once in the next three years.”

None of the eight played in 2013, and while Kuchar, Westwood and Mahan fulfilled obligations this year, there are still five players left on the hook. They combine to have won 21 majors: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson and Charl Schwartzel.

A quid-pro-quo arrangement is nothing new on the PGA Tour, and the scenario for the “Turkey Eight” is one that remains fluid. According to Kuchar, it also may be less than binding.

Kuchar was slated to play in the inaugural America’s Golf Cup later this month in Argentina, but when that commitment fell through, he added a stop in Napa – although the Turkey situation did play a role in his decision.

“It’s one of those things where they’d like you to (play the Frys.com),” Kuchar said. “They’d like you to, and understandably. I get it.”

Fresh off a Ryder Cup win and a fan of red wine, Westwood said that he “probably” would have played this week even if he had not played in Turkey and could envision a return in 2015.

“It obviously was one of the factors,” he said. “There was no sort of penalties put on us or anything like that, but it was said that if you’re going to play in Turkey, we would appreciate it if once in the next three years you play Frys as a sort of make-way.”

Mahan’s T-3 finish at Silverado was the best of the three Turkey participants. He was the only one to indicate that he would “probably not” have played this past week without the implications from the Turkey event, citing the short offseason.

“You know beforehand what the deal is going to be,” Mahan said. “You have to sign a release from the PGA Tour to play an event like Turkey. Those are the rules, and those are the same for everybody.”

Whether those rules extend to everybody – even 14-time major champions – remains to be seen.

Woods has a history with this event, having played the Frys.com Open in 2011, when he tied for 30th at CordeValle after an injury-plagued season. While Johnny Miller, co-owner at Silverado and the 2014 tournament honoree, told the San Francisco Chronicle that next year’s event will be “almost like a different tournament” with both Woods and McIlroy competing, Butler didn’t share his level of certainty regarding Woods’ participation.

“Tiger, we wish him full health and a charge back to the top of the leaderboards,” said Butler, who added that tournament officials are optimistic all five remaining players will play in 2015. “We’ll probably know a lot more about Tiger’s participation around June 1 or so.”

The travel and fatigue issues felt by the Turkey trio this past week could be amplified next year for Woods, Simpson and Schwartzel. All three are potential participants in the Presidents Cup which will be played in South Korea in early October.

While the 2014 schedule included off weeks on both sides of the Ryder Cup, the bye weeks in 2015 will come after the Deutsche Bank Championship and the Tour Championship, meaning players would have to go from the Presidents Cup in South Korea directly to San Francisco to kick off the new season.

McIlroy, however, would not be affected by Presidents Cup travel, and is someone who all parties involved expect in the field next year. The Ulsterman verbally committed early to play in this year’s event, but after winning the Open Championship and PGA Championship, he deferred his commitment to 2015 so he could play in this week's PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

“The schedule sets up better for Rory next year,” Butler said. “The Presidents Cup precedes the Frys tournament and the start of the season, and the Dunhill Links Championship, which he likes to play, is two weeks prior to the Frys. In concept, Rory will have the week off prior.”

Three names have been cleared off the list, and five remain. Whether all of them make it to Silverado next year remains to be seen, but signs point to a star-studded kickoff to the 2015 season.

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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.


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.”