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Newsmaker of the Year: No. 9, Rules of Golf

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 6, 2017, 12:30 pm

It wouldn’t be a full list of Newsmakers without including the Rules of Golf, which once again became the focal point of several key tournaments and now, it seems, may be simplified in the near future.

The rule book took center stage at the ANA Inspiration, where a ball-marking gaffe of inches led to a critical four-shot penalty for Lexi Thompson. It became a hotly-debated topic, as a viewer call-in essentially determined the outcome of a major championship, and weeks later the USGA and R&A implemented a “reasonable judgment” standard to limit the power of video replay reviews.

That action came months after the governing bodies announced a plan to simplify the rule book beginning in 2019. The proposed changes would eliminate penalties for tapping down spike marks, removing loose impediments in a hazard or hitting the flagstick while on the green. The dozens of new changes also included limiting the time for a lost ball search and allowing players to crouch near ground level when dropping out of a hazard.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


While the new changes received ample discussion, the rules in their current form still grabbed plenty of headlines over the summer. Jon Rahm was embroiled in not one but two rules controversies, first during his win at the Irish Open and again over moving a loose impediment at The Open. The PGA Tour curiously picked the Zurich Classic team event to hand out its first slow-play penalty in more than 20 years, while Bryson DeChambeau’s attempt to bring side-saddled putting back into style was hampered by the USGA.

But perhaps the biggest rules storyline gained traction near the end of the year, as a chorus of voices continued to call for the ever-advancing golf ball to be rolled back. Players from Tiger Woods to Dustin Johnson threw their support behind the notion of using a reduced-distance tournament ball for professionals, while USGA chief executive Mike Davis seemed open to just such a possibility when citing the increased costs associated with maintaining bigger and longer courses.

Whether 400-yard drives soon become a thing of the past or a shorter list of decisions leads to more enjoyable rounds, one thing remains clear: the impact of the Rules of Golf won’t be rolled back anytime soon.

USGA and R&A propose significant changes to simplify Rules of Golf

Article: USGA, R&A reveal proposed changes to Rules of Golf

Article: Full list of proposed changes to the Rules of Golf

Article: Reactions from Tiger, others on proposed rules changes

USGA: New rules easier to read and apply

Player reaction to new rules 'largely positive'


Lexi Thompson loses in ANA Inspiration playoff after controversial four-stroke penalty

Article: Replay rules under fire after controversial Lexi ruling

Article: Weeks later, Lexi ruling still a heated topic

Article: Lexi breaks down discussing ANA penalty

Thompson assessed four-stroke penalty a day later

Lexi breaks down in tears discussing ANA penalty


Jon Rahm embroiled in two rules controversies

Article: Rahm stands by ball mark mechanics after Irish Open controversy

Article: Rahm skirts another rules infraction at Open

Watch the Jon Rahm ball-placement controversy at Irish Open

Rules official McFee: Rahm was off by 'millimeters'


Debate rages over distance of golf ball, courses

Article: Tiger throws support behind rolling back the golf ball

Article: USGA's Davis calls impact of course expansion 'horrible'

Article: USGA's Davis considers 'variable distance golf ball'

Tiger, DJ in favor of limiting golf ball distance

Titleist CEO fires back at Davis over golf ball distance


Bryson DeChambeau spars with USGA over non-conforming putter

Article: One of DeChambeau's side-saddle putters deemed non-conforming

Article: DeChambeau blames USGA amid putting style switch

Article: DeChambeau tweets apology for USGA remarks


PGA Tour hands out first slow-play penalty in 22 years

Article: Zurich Classic team gets first slow-play penalty on Tour since 1995

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”