Notes: Masters may consider official with every group

By Doug FergusonApril 17, 2013, 12:50 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Rules officials from golf organizations around the world work at the Masters, most of them assigned various parts of the golf course. But it remains the only major championship that doesn't have a rules official walk with every group.

Even more peculiar is that the Masters has the smallest field. With only 93 players this year, there were only 31 groups all four days – threesomes Thursday and Friday, and twosomes Saturday and Sunday for the 61 players who made the cut.

Could that change in light of the ruling involving Tiger Woods?

Woods took an incorrect drop on the 15th hole after hitting into the water in the second round. Fred Ridley, chairman of the competition committee, responded to a TV viewer calling in the violation and didn't immediately recognize the mistake based on video evidence. It was only after Woods said in an interview said he dropped it 2 yards farther back did Ridley review the tape again. Woods was given a two-shot penalty, but not disqualified. Ridley invoked Rule 33-7, which gives the committee discretion not to disqualify. In this case, he felt Augusta erred by not presenting the evidence to Woods before he signed his card.

Ridley would not say if the Masters would have officials will each group next year. That likely would be up to Masters chairman Billy Payne.

''If there's one thing about the Masters tournament ... we look at everything,'' Ridley said. ''And do that with the competition, so we'll be looking at this situation. What could we do in the future? Is there any different processes we could employ? We look at the entire competition every year and try to get better.''

Then again, having a walking official doesn't solve every problem.

The U.S. Open had a walking official with every group in 2001 at Southern Hills when Lee Janzen returned Friday morning to complete the first rround. There was dew near his ball, and he wiped off the area with a towel. Only after the round was over was it discovered he violated Rule 13-2 by removing dew in the area behind or to the side of his ball. Janzen signed for an incorrect scorecard, though he was not disqualified because an official was in his room and didn't notice the violation.

It didn't matter. That two-shot penalty caused him to miss the cut.

Golf Digest magazine wrote on its website about the case of Dow Finsterwald in the 1960 Masters, who discovered in the second round he was not allowed to practice putting at the conclusion of a hole. He had done that in the first round, and the Masters committee chose not to disqualify him, instead adding two shots to his score.

Finsterwald, the 1958 PGA champion, was working at Augusta last week, wearing a blue blazer as he officiated from the first hole.

ROOKIE CHANGES: Martin Kaymer is no longer eligible to win Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour.

The PGA Tour board voted at its last meeting to change the eligibility. Previously, a player's rookie season was the year he became a member (including special temporary members) and played in at least 10 tournaments as a member. The new regulation states that new members – such as Kaymer – will not be eligible for the Rookie of the Year award if they had played in more than seven PGA Tour events as a pro in any previous season.

''There have been cases throughout the years when a highly ranked, veteran player who has not been a PGA Tour member previously has been eligible for the award – a situation that can be confusing for fans and seems to go against the spirit of the award,'' the Tour said in its newsletter to players.

It chose the seven events because that's the limit for sponsor's exemptions for players who are not members.

The most confusing situation was in 2010, when Rickie Fowler won the award over Rory McIlroy, even though McIlroy had the stronger credentials (starting with a victory at Quail Hollow). It was seen as a pro-American vote by the players, although it was confusing because McIlroy had played in all the majors and World Golf Championships the previous year.

Under the new definition, McIlroy would not have been eligible for the award in 2010.

Previous rookie winners have been Trevor Immelman in 2006 and Carlos Franco in 1999. Both won Rookie of the Year after having played in the Presidents Cup.

BEST WITHOUT A MAJOR: Lee Westwood can officially be considered the best player to have never won a major.

Sergio Garcia is right behind.

Westwood now has played 60 majors without winning, the most of anyone among active players. He has seven finishes in the top 3, including runner-up finishes in the Masters, British Open. He also missed a playoff by one shot in the 2008 U.S. Open and 2009 British Open.

He tied for eighth in the Masters this year.

Garcia has played in 58 majors without winning, and he has the distinction of the longest active streak of consecutive majors played at 55. Garcia lost the 2007 British Open in a playoff, and he was runner-up twice in the PGA Championship. He also tied for eighth at Augusta, despite a 66 in the first round for the outright lead.

Both are closing in on Tom Kite, who played 63 majors as a pro before he won the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach when he was 42.

USGA RETIREMENT: The USGA is losing 50 years of experience and passion when Rhonda Glenn retires on May 9.

Glenn's affiliation with the USGA began in 1963 when she played the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur, the first of her 11 USGA events, which included five U.S. Women's Amateurs. Over the years, she has expanded her role as a writer, broadcaster and historian, and she later became a fixture running interviews at the U.S. Women's Open.

Perhaps her most impressive feat was helping to pull together the Mickey Wright Room for the USGA Museum. Glenn is a longtime friend of Wright, considered by many to be the greatest female ever. It was the USGA Museum's first room to honor a female player.

Glenn became the first full-time female broadcast for a national network when she went to work for ESPN in 1981. She won the USGA International Book Award in 1992 for ''The Illustrated History of Women's Golf,'' and she is working now on a biography on Nancy Lopez.

DIVOTS: IMG has acquired IGP Sports & Entertainment Group, which manages the Honda Classic. Tournament director Ken Kennerly will join IMG's golf division and be in charge of the agency's North American golf events. IMG also runs the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Father-Son Challenge. ... Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark tied for sixth at the Masters and earned $278,000, pushing over the amount to make him eligible to be a special temporary member on the PGA Tour. He will have 60 days to take membership, making him eligible for unlimited exemptions the rest of the year. ... Vijay Singh now has gone 27 rounds without breaking 70 at the Masters, dating to a 67 in the first round of 2006. ... A 54-hole lead in the Masters is no longer as safe as it once was. Adam Scott became the fourth straight winner who trailed going into the final round, the longest streak for the Masters since 1984-1987.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Dating to the 2010 Masters, every major champion except for Martin Kaymer (No. 33) and Darren Clarke (No. 230) remain inside the top 25 in the world ranking.

FINAL WORD: ''A phone conversation isn't going to do it for us. We are really close, and I'd love to share a beer with him over this one.'' – Adam Scott after becoming the first Australian to win the Masters, on what he would say to Greg Norman.

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Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

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It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”