PGA president doesnt expect changes at Whistling Straits
The golf world was still reeling Monday over the two-shot penalty given to Dustin Johnson on the final hole. He grounded his 4-iron in the sand to the right of the fairway, not aware he was in a bunker.
Johnson had a one-shot lead when he teed off on the 18th. He missed a 7-foot par putt and seemed to slip into a playoff. But when he learned he had let his club touch the sand during his preshot routine, Johnson added two shots to his score and tied for fifth.
Asked if there was any consideration to change the unusual local bunker rule for 2015, PGA of America president Jim Remy said, “Not at this point.”
“Obviously, it’s the day after,” Remy said. “I’m sure (championship director) Kerry Haigh will do his due diligence. He made the decision not to do it from 2004 to 2010. My guess is that probably the way we’re leaning is to leave it that way.”
It wasn’t the first time someone paid for the bunker rule at Whistling Straits.
When the PGA Championship was first played there in 2004, Stuart Appleby was penalized four shots late in the third round for removing a dead piece of grass (two shots) to the right of the 16th hole and touching the sand on a practice swing (two shots).
That didn’t cost him a major championship, though.
What never will be known is how Johnson would have fared in the three-hole playoff, which Martin Kaymer won over Bubba Watson. It was the most shocking finish involving rules at a major since Roberto de Vicenzo signed for a 4 when he had made a 3 on the 17th hole of the final round in the 1968 Masters. He had to accept the higher score and finished one shot behind Bob Goalby.
Johnson said he didn’t look at the rules sheet that had been posted all week in the locker room and on the first tee throughout the week, explaining that every bunker was a hazard, even if they were outside the ropes where the gallery had been standing.
“It was unfortunate for Dustin. I feel bad for him. He’s a PGA member, just like I am,” said Remy, the general manager of Okemo Valley Golf Club in Vermont. “I feel sad for him the way it all unfolded. But that’s the rules of golf. Those things happen in sports, and nobody feels good about it.”
Remy said he didn’t see a a practical solution for 2015, or in 2020 for the Ryder Cup.
“Do you mark 900 of them not as bunkers and 300 as bunkers? How do you ever mark them?” he said. “Clearly, with this happening, players will be more aware of it in the future. And we didn’t have any other infractions during the week.”
Players continued to weigh in on both sides.
“In light of PGA finish, Augusta just announced new seating for patrons available in right greenside bunker by 18 green,” Stewart Cink joked on Twitter.
PGA Tour rookie Kris Blanks, who missed the cut at the PGA, posted a picture of a child’s sandbox and suggested that would be considered a bunker at Whistling Straits.
Johnson tied for fifth, still enough for him to easily make the Ryder Cup team. The only way he would have failed to finish among the top eight qualifiers would have been to sign his card for a bogey and learn of the bunker gaffe later. Then, he would have been disqualified for signing an incorrect score.
“The one thing that I will remember from this more than anything is the way Dustin handled himself,” Pavin said. “He was very mature. I couldn’t imagine a player handling it any better than he did. He played beautiful golf on Sunday, put himself in position to win the tournament. I think it was the proper ruling. It was an unfortunate situation.”
Among the questions raised was whether the marshals should have done a better job clearing out the gallery around Johnson, which might have made it clearer to him that he was on the edge of a bunker.
Johnson thought it was grass that had been trampled all week by foot traffic.
The PGA rules official didn’t remind Johnson that he was in a bunker – if he even knew – although Paul Goydos pointed out that a rules official’s job is not to remind players of the rule, rather to interpret them if a player asks.
Goydos is not sure he would change the bunker rules for 2015.
“You’ve either got to say they’re all bunkers or they’re not bunkers,” Goydos said. “I don’t think you take into account that guys would hit the ball 75 yards off line. Maybe they could have cleared the gallery so he could see the bunker. It’s just a weird situation.”
Asked if the PGA could make a rule that anything outside the ropes is not a bunker, Goydos shook his head.
“Now you’re trying to call foul balls and fair balls,” he said.
After Johnson hit his 4-iron to the left of the 18th green into a difficult spot, he sent a magnificent flop shop to 7 feet. That gave him a chance – or so it seemed – to win his first major. Remy was standing behind the 18th green watching it all unfold when he heard radio traffic about a potential problem on the bunker shot.
It was not clear if PGA officials noticed the problem on the telecast or if someone alerted them to it.
Remy wasn’t sure what to think.
“I was aware of what was unfolding, but at that time, I didn’t know the outcome,” he said. “I knew there was a question. I was aware we were going to have to deal with the issue. But I wanted the putt to go in because I didn’t know what the ruling would be. I thought it would have been an epic finish to a great championship.”
And what if the putt had gone in?
“It didn’t,” Remy said. “But I sure thought about it.”
Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best
There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.
Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.
"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."
Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.
"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."
When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.
"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."
Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014
As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.
Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.
Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.
Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.
With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.
Pavin's season nearly ends after slow-play penalty
Corey Pavin's season on the PGA Tour Champions nearly came to an end because of a slow-play penalty.
Penalties for pace are often discussed or threatened, but rarely doled out on either the PGA Tour or the over-50 circuit. But that changed Sunday during the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, where Pavin was told by a rules official after completing his round that he would receive a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.
The penalty was on the surface rather harmless, turning an even-par 72 into a 1-over 73 and dropping Pavin into a tie for 15th. But this was the first event of a three-tournament postseason for PGA Tour Champions players, and only the top 54 in points advanced to this week's Invesco QQQ Championship.
Pavin, who has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season, barely held on at 53rd place after the penalty was enforced.
Slow-play discussions came up earlier this season surrounding Bernhard Langer at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, but Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins expressed his surprise on the telecast that it was Pavin who got a shot added to his score.
"Of all the things to happen with all the times I have played - I can't even count the number of rounds - I never thought Corey Pavin was a slow player," Wadkins said. "All the guys we know are slow players have never been penalized out here. Where has this been for the last 15 years?"
The subject of the penalty also raised an eyebrow from Stephen Ames, who finished alongside Pavin in 15th place while Langer finished second behind Woody Austin:
It’s absolutely ridiculous. It took us 4 hours and 15 minutes to play a 2-ball (behind pictured guy I’ll add). We were an hour longer than the first guys that teed off. It’s unacceptable. https://t.co/rrlF3xB7bl— Stephen Ames (@StephenAmesPGA) October 22, 2018
Azinger 'lobbied' to captain Ryder Cup team a second time
In 2008, Paul Azinger became the first U.S. Ryder Cup captain in nearly a decade to lead a team to victory, doing so at Valhalla with his innovative “pod” system and a player-driven approach to leadership.
In the wake of that victory there were many, including the vast majority of his players, who said Azinger deserved a second chance to captain, but at the time the 12-time PGA Tour winner appeared to be undecided and the PGA of America named Corey Pavin the 2010 captain.
On Monday, Azinger was named NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst starting next year and among many revelations during an extended interview on “Morning Drive” he explained how much he wanted a second chance to captain.
“I wanted to do it again, I lobbied to do it again after we won in ’08, but I think I waited a little too long and they had already made a decision,” Azinger said. “The excuse I got was that there are more captains than there are Ryder Cups and I thought that was fair, but then they asked [Tom] Watson to do it again shortly afterward and I was like, ‘What, huh?’”
Watson was named captain of the 2014 U.S. team, which lost by five points and led to the creation of the Ryder Cup task force, which adopted many of Azinger’s ideas including his use of four-player pods.
It’s even more curious that Azinger was never given a second chance considering that Davis Love III was also named a captain twice, first in 2012 and again in ’16.
“I didn’t do it again, I didn’t carry the flag to Europe in 2010, which is fine, and now I’m never going to get to do it again,” he said.
As for who may be named the next U.S. captain after another loss to the Europeans last month in France Azinger could only speculate. “Looks like Wisconsin [site of the 2020 matches at Whistling Straits] and Steve Stricker are going to be a perfect match,” he said.