Poulters blunder the latest in a year of bizarre rulings
It involves a player who tries to replace his ball on the putting green, only for it to slip out of his hands just inches above the ground and land on his marker – a lucky coin, in this case – and move it ever so slightly.
There was no intent for the marker to move. There was no advantage to be gained.
But there was a one-stroke penalty.
“It puts the focus on another stupid rule,” Poulter said.
No doubt he could find a few other colleagues wanting to tweak the Rules of Golf, which will next be amended for 2012.
Brian Davis was docked two shots in a playoff at Hilton Head when his club ticked a loose reed in a waste area to the left of the 18th. Juli Inkster was penalized for swinging a club with a weight attached to stay loose during a delay. And who will ever forget Dustin Johnson not realizing he was in a bunker at the PGA Championship, going from a playoff to a tie for fifth after his two-shot penalty?
Poulter speaks from an experience he would just as soon forget.
He was on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Robert Karlsson at the Dubai World Championship, a great finish to the European Tour season, when they came to the par-5 18th green. Poulter went to replace his ball on a 40-foot birdie putt when it fell from his fingertips, hit the edge of the coin and made it flip over.
“It was literally like this,” Poulter said Tuesday, squatting and twirling a golf ball with his fingers before letting it fall to the ground.
First, some perspective.
Poulter knows he was unlikely to win the tournament, for while he had the long birdie putt, Karlsson had pitched to about 4 feet for birdie.
“That softens the blow a little bit,” Poulter said.
He will argue, however, that he at least had a chance until one slip of the hand, one flip of the coin. Did it cost him the tournament? Probably not, although it made for some sensational “what if?” stories.
The difference between winning and losing was $417,000. Throw in an extra $150,000 for the Race to Dubai bonus. And those ranking points could wind up costing Poulter even more money in incentives, the whole package perhaps worth close to $1 million depending on how he finishes the year at the Chevron World Challenge.
“I understand the rule,” Poulter said. “I knew straightaway, because I had heard of it happening before. Look, I don’t want to sound like bitter grapes. I didn’t do anything intentional to gain an advantage. Do I think the rule should be changed? Yes. Did I think the rule should be changed beforehand? I wasn’t really bothered by it.”
Poulter also realizes that if this had happened on the seventh hole Friday, no one might have noticed, much less cared.
“When you look at when it happened, where it happened and what it meant … it couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” he said. “It was a really, really bad time.”
It could have been worse. Imagine the outrage if Poulter had been 4 feet from the hole for birdie and Karlsson was 40 feet away. That would have cost him the tournament, the money, the world ranking points.
“I would be sick,” Poulter said with a healthy grin. “I wouldn’t be talking to anyone. I would still be miserable.”
Consider the reaction if Johnson had made his par putt on the 18th hole at Whistling Straits, which would have made him the PGA champion until he got into the scoring trailer and been told to add two shots to his score.
As for Davis?
It was noble of him to call the penalty on himself. But for those who argue it’s an arcane rule, Davis obviously knew enough about the rules to realize that he might have broken one.
Davis was in a similar situation to Poulter. There was so much outrage about ridiculous rules that some perspective was lost. Davis was in deep trouble left of the green, and all he could do was hack it out to about 45 feet for par. Jim Furyk was 5 feet away for par and most likely would have won even if Davis were not penalized.
What amazes is the notion that golf looks bad for playing by the rules. Yes, it’s a harsh penalty for such an innocuous mistake. But in every case, it’s the player who makes the mistake – and more often than not, the player knows it.
Did he gain an advantage in Dubai? No. Was it intentional? Of course not.
But as Jeff Hall of the USGA points out, the marker is the equivalent of the ball. If Poulter’s ball had been on the green and moved ever so slightly, “I suspect most people wouldn’t have the emotional connection to a penalty,” Hall said.
“At the end of the day, our rules are clear,” Hall said. “Our game is unique from all others. It requires us to know the rules.”
Remember, it was Poulter who one year at The Players Championship hit wedge into 6 feet on the fourth hole, marked his ball and had the ball slip out of his hand and roll into the water. It would have been a two-stroke penalty for not finishing the hole with the same ball.
In this case, Poulter’s therapist came out of the gallery, stripped down to his boxers and waded into the water to get the ball.
High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball
TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.
''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''
Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.
''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''
The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.
''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''
In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.
Arizona captures NCAA DI Women's Championship
STILLWATER, Okla. – Turns out this match play format provides fireworks. Almost always.
In the four years since the women’s NCAA Championship has switched from the stale, 72-hole stroke-play format the championship matches have been pure magic.
This year, for the third time in the past four years, the final outcome came down to the last match and Arizona took home its third title with a 3-2 victory over Alabama on Wednesday when junior Haley Moore defeated senior Lakareber Abe on the 19th hole.
The Wildcats also won NCAA titles in 1996 and 2000, the later when current Arizona coach Laura Ianello was on the team as a player.
“Arizona is my home, it is where I went to school and it needs to be back home,” Ianello said. “So I am so proud to be the coach to bring it back.”
Two days ago, Arizona was in the midst of an epic collapse. They were safely in the third position after 54 holes of stroke play and needed to only be inside the top-eight after 72 holes to advance to the match play portion of the event.
But they played the worst round of the day and were on the outside looking in with one hole remaining when junior Bianca Pagdanganan made eagle on the par-5 18th hole. That propelled the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor that they ultimately won.
On the first day of match play, Arizona continued to ride the wave of momentum by defeating Pac-12 rivals UCLA, the top seed, and Stanford, a match play stalwart the past three years.
Next up for Arizona was Alabama, the top-ranked team in the country and the second seed this week after stroke play.
“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a helluva ride,” Ianello said, attempting to take pressure off her team, which, on paper, looked like an underdog.
But you know the saying, anything can happen in match play, and often does.
Alabama coach Mic Potter put out his three first-team All-Americans in the first three spots hoping to jump out to an early lead. Junior Lauren Stephenson played poorly in the opening match and lost, 4 and 3, to freshman Yu-Sang Hou.
Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight dispatched of Wildcats Gigi Stoll and Pagdanganan easily in the second and third matches.
Arizona’s Sandra Nordaas beat Angelica Moresco, 1 up, in the fourth match meaning the fifth and final match behind, which was all square after 16 holes, was going to be the one to decide the NCAA title.
Lakareber lost the 17th hole when her approach shot sailed well short and right of the green in thick, thick rough. She attempted to advance the ball but could not and headed to the final hole 1 down.
With seemingly every golf fan in Stillwater on site, including several men’s teams here to participate in next week’s championship, Abe hit a laser second shot into the par-5 18th hole setting up a 12-foot look for eagle. Moore failed to put pressure on Abe and Abe won the hole to set up extra holes to decide the championship.
In the extra frame, Moore was left of the green in two shots and Abe was short in the greenside bunker. Moore chipped to 4 feet and Abe’s bunker shot was 6 feet away. Abe missed, Moore made and Arizona walked away with the hardware.
“It means so much, it’s actually like a dream,” Moore said. “I’m just so happy for my team right now.”
Potter has been a head coach for 35 years – at both Furman and Alabama – and finally was able to collect his first NCAA Championship in 2012. Being so close to a second one will sting for quite awhile but he will be able to live with the outcome for one simple reason.
“They fought their hearts out all year,” Potter said. “I just want to congratulate them for the way they battled, not only today, but in match play. Everyone gave their best on every shot, that’s all we can ask.”
Arizona def. Alabama, 3-2
Yu-Sang Hou (AZ) def. Lauren Stephenson (AL), 4 and 3
Kristen Gillman (AL) def. Gigi Stoll (AZ), 4 and 3
Cheyenne Knight (AL) def. Bianca Pagdanganan, 4 and 2
Sandra Nordaas (AZ) def. Angelica Moresco (AL), 1 up
Haley Moore (AZ) def. Lakareber Abe (AL), 19th hole
Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier
Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.
Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.
And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.
Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.
The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.
The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.
''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''
Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.
Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.
That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.
''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''
Off the course, they're also different.
The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.
Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.
Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.
''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.
Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.
Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.
Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.
On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.
In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.
Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.
Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.
''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.
The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.
''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.
LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.
Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.
''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''